Trafalgar Square Road Block

I have to say that I thought taking on Trafalgar Square for a protest by Stop Killing Londoners was perhaps over-ambitious. But the operation had been carefully planned and there was a rather larger group gathering when I arrived at the meeting point for the protesters. It had been a dull day and was raining a little, and half an hour before ‘sunset’ and I was getting just a little fed-up waiting for anything to happen as the the light was beginning to fade.

The organiser also had a very clear idea about the photograph they wanted to get, and as often it didn’t sound too good to me. Their banner in an traffic-free Trafalgar Square with Nelson on his column might sound a good idea, but that column is 52 metres tall, and even their large banner would seem pretty insignificant if I moved back far enough to include him where they were planning to stand.

I’d set both cameras to ISO 2,500 by the time the groups began to move into place to stop traffic on all the roads feeding onto the roundabout at the south end of the square around the Charles II statue – St Martin’s Place, The Strand, Northumberland Ave, Whitehall, The Mall and Cockspur St.

I wanted to photograph all the groups blocking the road – I think there must have been six of them – but only managed five despite running around dementedly during the short period the roads were blocked for, as well as taking as best I could the banner in front of Nelson. I settled in the end for including the two lions at the base, but cutting out all of the column above its bas-reliefs. Of course I wasn’t the only photographer present, and getting a clear view without people in the way took some patience, difficult as the whole total block was only for around 5 minutes.

The group then moved into the centre of Trafalgar Square, pleased with its success, and after another five minutes moved together to block St Martin’s Place, this time accompanied by music and dancing, until after almost ten minutes the police, who had stood back and watched during the earlier protest, made a more determined attempt and persuaded them to finish and they moved off without much argument. This part of the square is very much shaded by trees, and the light was pretty low. Because of this and the movement, most of the pictures I took were at higher ISOs and for some I also added some flash, taking care not to completely overpower the ambient lighting.

As with their previous road blocks, this was intended to gain publicity for the almost 10,000 premature deaths and many more people suffering from the excessive air pollution in London, mainly caused by traffic. But although it got some publicity, neither the Mayor of London or Transport for London, although aware of the problem and making some minor improvements, have taken the kind of drastic action that this serious problem requires, and Stop Killing London are keeping up their campaign.

Trafalgar Square blocked over pollution


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