Well. Yes, probably. I have a small character flaw. I don’t like authority. I question authority. I overreact sometimes.
This is me being stopped under Section 44(2) of The Terrorism Act 2000. I informed the police that I would be videoing and streaming to QIK. The video was cross posted to Phreadz and discussed on BoingBoing.
So, is my antagonistic whining at the police useful in any way? In my twisted mind, I see this as a good thing… sometimes. I believe it’s up to all of us to occasionally turn around and say “Are you allowed to do that?” To say “Why?” I’m not trying to be melodramatic, but I don’t think that enough people perform checks on authority. Power, so they say, corrupts. We’ve seen how police can be used against the population in Zimbabwe and other countries.
Now, I’m not naive enough to claim “OMFG POLICE STATE!” to being stopped – annoying and distressing as it is. Britain is a hell of a lot better than many other countries. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to make it even better.
A lot of people (especially those whose parents escaped Europe during the war) are vigilant – perhaps over vigilant – against the return of fascism. And the first step towards that kind of rule is to stir up fear and hate in the population and use the civilian police for political purposes. Hence, I suppose, the emotional response.
The UK is not a police state. But it’s up to each of us to make sure it doesn’t become one. It’s up to us to vote, to talk to our MPs, to expose violence and intimidation.
Let me make one thing clear; I have enormous respect for the police. They do a tough job and get a lot of abuse for it. I’m too much of a coward to put myself in harm’s way every day like they do. The Security Services’ failures are very public – and their successes are very private. We often only get to see the “bad” side of them. That distorts our perception of the work they do to keep all of us safe.
Some people have said that I’m a dick, that I’m looking for my 15MB of fame (excellent turn of phrase), that I’m goading the police for a reaction.
Others think I’m highlighting security theatre, a citizen journalism hero, that I was perfectly reasonable.
Those are a selection of people’s thoughts. There are more on digg.
Ultimately, I’m conflicted. I feel that it’s right to highlight the silliness of these random searches. I feel that my right to free speech has been exercised and I’m hugely grateful that I live in a society that values and respects the free discourse of ideas.
However, I should have handled it better. I should have been calmer and more professional. I don’t think I was in any serious danger of being carted away – but it terrifies me that had I slipped and made comment too provocative I’d now be in jail for 28 days.
I’m grateful to James Bridle for filing a Freedom of Infomation request to the Home Office, via What Do They Know. If these “random” stop and searches result in a significant number of arrests and prosecutions; I’ll accept that I’m a hysterical moaner and let them get on with it. If, however, all it accomplishes is to piss off innocent citizens…..
Please, if you care about your freedoms in the UK, join Liberty.
(This post comprises a distillation of a number of tweets, comments on digg, phreadz and conversations with people. I’ll update it with trackbacks to other blogs covering this when I get some free time.)