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Attacks on the Press

This riot was the most hostile towards the Press that I have witnessed.

I have covered many demonstrations, some that turned into riots, and the Press and TV get a pretty mixed welcome by the crowd and by the Police. During the 1990s the hostility towards the Press seems to have increased, perhaps for several reasons. Firstly there is a growing awareness among the crowd that the Police have powers to seize film and footage shot by the Press and use it to identify people in the crowd (interestingly there is no civil power for members of the crowd to demand film showing possible Police intemperance). As a result photographers are now seen by many as hostile witnesses. Another factor is the increased use of amateur video and photographs by pressure groups to point out Police excesses. The result of this is an animosity of many Police to anyone carrying a camera.

Obviously the more hostile the people (of either side) feel the more likely they are to commit violence.

The crowd in Trafalgar Square on June 26th were very hostile to the Press and TV. When I arrived I was advised by the Police and other Photographers not to go into the crowd. Already one Photographer had been taken to Hospital when a flying bottle hit him in the neck. Many Press and TV people were screamed at, taunted or attacked. Still you can't get good pictures solely from behind Police lines.

I was attacked three times. First was when I (perhaps unwisely) started photographing from the crowd side. Within a minute or two I was cornered by three people against a barrier. One took a flying kick at one camera and bent the lens barrel, the second wrenched the speedlight off, the third started punching me around the chest. Fortunately a fourth crowd member came to my aid, pulled me away and yelled at the others to lay off. In this breathing space I managed to slip away. Thanks, whoever you were.

The second time was when the crowd was more dispersed. Two people ran past me, one kicked me hard in the leg and the other ripped of the speedlight bending the top plate of my Leica. Now I had no flash but the battered Leica soldiered on in natural light.

Finally whilst I was photographing the Police clearing the square one man started punching me in the back yelling "F***ing press, your going to write a load of lies about how we were all thugs and hooligans." Considering that he was repeatedly punching me at the time the money spent on his irony transplant had obviously been good value. By this time I had had enough so I let fly at him with a torrent of abuse. He backed off with a surprised look and I managed to hop over a barrier into the road and leg it.

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