In the UK, one of the most heavily surveillanced countries in the world, it’s impossible to travel without being recorded in some way. Add to that a public paranoia fed on a diet of vague terrorist threats, sweeping police powers, the gradual erosion of individual freedoms and you have a repressive and authoritarian state under the guise of ‘safety’.
When they arrived, the police officers explained that carrying a camera in the vicinity of Central London was grounds for suspicion. I might be a terrorist who posed a threat to the good citizens of London – my own city. Equally I might be casing the joint for some future crime, studying its defences in order to circumvent them.
Carrying a camera thus justified the suspicion of the security guards who stopped me and performed a citizen’s arrest, detaining me until the arrival of the police. This suspicion in turn justified the actions of the police, who threatened me with arrest if I did not identify myself and explain my actions. For carrying a camera, I was told, I could be taken to the station and charged with “Going Equipped”, a provision of the 1968 Theft Act which determines the imprisonment for up to three years of anyone carrying equipment which may be used to commit a burglary.