Wednesday, 1 April 2009

"The Day of the Big Protest, Or...

How the Police Managed to Escalate a Peaceful Situation".

The G20 Summit started and massive demonstrations were expected in the City of London for today. At first there were more police officers and reporters than protesters but this turned soon and around lunctime a lot of people came to protest but also to see what is going on.

In the beginning everything was fine, people were having a good time and were in good spirits, police was present but did not impede or bullied the protesters and other people there. This turned soon when the police got the stupid order to contain people and circled the people in. I was one of the people who got caught in the middle with the police refusing to let anyone out, even an injured person. Only reporters were alowed through.

People were nice and talked to the police at first but after being "contained" for over 1.5h people started to get impatient and angry. They called on the police to let them through and when this failed started to call them faschists and nazis. It did not take long till people decided that pushing was the only way out.
The police thought it was a good idea to bully people and push them to the ground and this is when the situation escalated and everyone pushed their way through. I was in the front line just in front of the police and while I could avoid being pushed by the police I was pushed forward by the people behind me. This resuled in the police line breaking down and the ploce finally moving away and letting people get out.

This whole situation only escalated because some idiot gave the order to contain people, after people pushed their way out they went peacefully about their way. So a note to the London Police, if you want to escalate a situation and turn people against you just go ahead and "contain" people.

Overall it was a very interesting experience and I really enjoy covering protests. Getting caught up in the midle was not great but the people I met, including the police, were generaly very friendly and passionate. Using the GRD only was great and it is the perfect camera for these events, it's fast, small and easy to handle. Took over 450 pictures today, not all of them good but sometimes it is better to take more than not enough on an event like this.
I even managed to get another photographer interested in my GRD. It was generally also a great opportunity to spot the camera people were using and from big dSLRs over Leicas, Contax G2, Rolleiflex, compact and mobile phones there were all sorts of cameras present.

For more pictures go an see my Dropbox gallery here.

Tomorrow after work I'll be heading to the Excel Centre to cover the 2nd day of the protests so check back for more pictures.


  1. absolute perfect image!love the compositon,love GRD,love london

  2. Excellent coverage Cristi! You were right in the thick of the action and I saw more than a few great images. I see that the police couldn't control the photographers. :) The more I use my GRD in situations like this, I appreciate how easy it is to handle (as opposed to trying to control and manipulate a DSLR). I used to think that I would reserve the G10 and D90 for photojournalism
    Good luck tomarrow and be careful out there.

  3. Cristian, this without doubt is the best blog you have posted, not only the photographs (particularly the one of the young crying woman pleading with the police) but also the analyses of the police's management of the event.

    The police employed the same tactics some years ago at a 1st May demonstration in Oxford Street, a number of innocent bystanders were trapped for hours and sued the police for false imprisonment.

    Undoubtedly there were "hotheads" amongst the demonstrators, but we should expect better discipline from the police, (perhaps that's too much to expect)

  4. Thanks for your comment Jason!

    Thanks James, I love being right where the action is and believe for protest photography any lens longer than 90mm is wasted as it keeps you too far away. A small camera that works fast and efficient with a wideangle lens so you can get really close is perfect. The last thing you want to do is fiddling around with your camera when you have to be constantly aware of what is going on around you (and you have to be aware if you are in the middle of a protest).

    Thanks Yesbuts! I am glad you like the pictures and the analysis of the protest.
    I found the police tactics to be of very poor judgement and blame them and a few hotheads for escalating the situation unnecessary.
    Trapping people is the wrong thing to do since it only creates anger and brings more people against the police.

  5. Excellent post Cristi. And in particular your last photo shows the lack of thoughtfulness with the London police. And a great photo too.