G4S private police leave the Olympic site to assault and harrass photographers working from public land. Olympic Park Saturday April 21, 2012 © David Hoffman.
In an email conversation with BJP, photographer David Hoffman has recounted how two G4S security guards forcefully prevented him, as well as photographers and videographers Jess Hurd and Jason Parkinson from taking pictures from public land of the Olympic site.
The incident came days after the National Union of Journalists held a meeting with Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison and Commander Bob Broadhurst of Scotland Yard to discuss photographers' rights in and around the Olympic Games venues.
"We said that on the past record of private security guards we could expect unlawful and oppressive interference," says Hoffman. "Allison assured us that the security would only be acting inside the site and that we'd have no problems on public land outside. He may have believed that. We didn't and thought that we should check out the accuracy of his promises."
He adds: "Before we'd got half way round the site - all on public land - G4S security had run out from the site, shouting at me and grabbing the camera of a colleague (Jess Hurd), pushing her back and preventing her from taking photos. A second guard also appeared and assaulted a videographer colleague, Jason Parkinson, grabbing his camera and pushing him around."
When the guards' manager approached the photographers, she is said to have explained that the guards had been trained to deter people from taking photographs.
The photographers then asked for police to attend "and two SO23 officers soon arrived, confirming that our behaviour was entirely lawful." The guards retreated into the Olympic site, says Hoffman.
"The guards are very poorly trained by G4S," claims Hoffman. "The blame should be on G4S and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games whose penny-pinching attitude and contempt for the media is already causing us problems and is certain to cause us a great deal more problems unless we take a stand."
Speaking to BJP, John Toner of the National Union of Journalists says that it will be contacting G4S and LOCOG "to explain if and why the guards have received such training." He adds: "We will also remind them that they have no right to prevent anyone taking photographs in a public space."
A spokesman for G4S admits to BJP that the security guards were "overenthuiastic" in their response and that they shouldn't never have prevented the photographers from taking pictures from public land. "They have been reminded that any photographers is allowed to take pictures from public land," he says.
UPDATE: Roy Mincoff, NUJ legal officer, says: "While we recognise the need for security, it must be lawful, proportionate and necessary. If it is not, and if NUJ members are assaulted or unlawfully prevented from legitimately conducting their work, prevented from reporting or having their equipment or materials unlawfully taken, the NUJ will take all appropriate steps to protect our members' interests."
Hurd has documented the incident in a series of images available at jesshurd.com.
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