So your intrepid observer set out, post-collywobbles, to discover
that the most significant thing happening was nothing, and lots of
it. After getting inured to the Apocalypse Now helicopter
soundtrack, it became clear that a huge swathe of London's West End
was quieter than 5am on a Sunday. Half the capitalism had disappeared
behind plywood, too. Associated Newspapers certainly lay on a very
effective Stop the City action when they put their mind to it.
Back at the barricades, your observer was able to help several
journalists carrying NUJ-issued press cards through reluctant police
lines. He tried (a bit) for the two carrying cards issued by the
News of the World, too, and failed.
Reporters and photographers said that police had largely been
unobstructive earlier in the day. It is clear that what works is
to approach the most senior officer you can find - who's more
likely to remember whatever briefing they've had than the others.
That's their job.
And what works with them is a negotiation between
professionals. To the colleague who brandishes the back of the press
card uttering "Es is hier geschreibt...„ - sorry,
"It is written here that this is recognised by the Metropolitan
Police" - if England ever acquires a culture of rights rather
than favours it's going to take decades longer than in Scotland
Clearly, more needs to be done to make non-commanding police
aware of the press card. In the long run we have to establish
that supporting the right to report is part of their job. And
we have to keep making the point that supporting prosecutions
is not part of our job, and we'll do all we can to
resist and avoid handing over films. (The Freelance
hasn't yet heard of any serious aggro from demonstrators toward
journalists on the day. So do tell...)
Members of the Branch are very welcome to volunteer as
"press freedom observers" for future events. Current
police tactics for demonstrations mean it would be good to have
a lot of observers. At one point on May Day there were at least
20 police cordons around Oxford Street.