Marzieh Hashemi arrest protest

The USA decided to move its London embassy a few years ago, and probably a major factor in the decision to go to Nine Elms was that Grosvenor Square was such a convenient location for demonstrations. The most notable of these was back on on 17 March 1968, when police horses ran amok in a relatively peaceful crowd that was filling the square. I can’t see myself in the videos but I’m fairly sure (it was the sixties, and if you can remember …) I was there and certainly remember the panic as out of control horses rushed towards me. I don’t think horses were used at the other protests I was at then, though I’ve seen them used at other London protests in recent years.

Not the embassy

It seemed an example of cruelty to animals (which the nation might be expected to violently object to) and also of cruelty to protesters, about which many would care little. Quite clearly those horses were frightened and out of control of their riders, who rode them into peaceful crowds heedless of the injuries that might be caused. The BBC and much of the other media described it as a riot, but the only rioters where the horses were deployed, well away from the embassy, were the police.

A part of the embassy

In recent years at Grosvenor Square there were probably several protests most weeks, mostly small but some sizeable, though virtually none reported in the media, where only protests abroad against regimes we don’t favour or those involving so-called celebrities seem normally to qualify as news.

This is the embassy

Things are certainly much quieter for the us at Nine Elms, which for many Londoners seems almost on the edge of the known universe. though actually it is only a short walk from one of London’s major transport interchanges at Vauxhall. But it isn’t just getting there that is the problem; the embassy is on a relatively minor road and its entrances hidden away some distance from that road. While people and cars move through Grosvenor Square, virtually nothing goes past the new Embassy which is still in the middle of one of the largest building sites in the country.

Back on the main road in front of the embassy, there is nothing to tell you that this is the US Embassy, though the building itself, on the other side of a garden and lake, is made distinctive by some odd wrapping on three sides (but not that actually facing the road.) Unlike in Grosvenor Square, there is no giant eagle on its roof, and the US flag, rather than being on the roof, is hidden away behind the embassy.

It’s hard from the pavement in front of the pedestrian entrance to the embassy site to get a convincing view of the building, as it is too close for the widest rectilinear lens. Bits of it – as the top two images show – are not that distinctive or convincing, and to get the third image I had to use a fisheye lens. As usual I’ve converted the image using Fisheye-Hemi to make the side walls straight, but the top of the building does retain a curve. The latest version of this utility is now available as a Lightroom export plugin, making it no longer necessary to use Photoshop for the conversion.

I had two main reasons to attend the protest, first that it was about the mistreatment by the FBI of a fellow journalist, but also because it seemed a clear case of Islamophobia, FBI harassment of the Muslim community.  America never really was the ‘land of the free’ so far as many of its inhabitants were concerned, or for the rest of the world, but things have got even worse since 9/11 and such shameful US activities such as the illegal rendition and detention of detainees in Guantanamo.

More about the event at Marzieh Hashemi arrest protest.


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