Friday, March 10, 2006


Two days ago, I was walking from college and suddenly saw a few coppers near the bus stop, couple of them with big cameras. 'Ok ' I thought 'where's the riot'. Then I saw the placards on the house nearby, saying 'infoshop' and realized this was the Russel Square squatted social centre which has recently opened. I went up to the door to see what activities they have and when. Behind me the policemen were shouting 'If you want to get it, just ring the doorbell' and 'just ring the doorbell mate, go ahead'.
The Metropolitan Police are here to help, as you know.
I was late for dinner and had no intentions to go in anyway. As I turned round, the flash hit me, twice. Captured on camera.
So I'm on the database now, maybe. I probably was there already. Hundreds of thousands of pictures, stored in some huge server, to be compared with CCTV footage when the time comes.

There is something about this supposedly rather numb and liberal and harmless place which makes being politically active extremely frustrating. As far as I see it, the State here is relatively relaxed and tolerant about political activities, compared with the rest of the world. Yet the level of suveillance is unbelievable. Nowhere in the world has so many CCTV cameras on the streets. My feeling is that they can afford being tolerant because they know there is no threat. Something about the impossiblity of change. And something about having complete control. I'm rambling.

The flash hit me in some emotional point, it made me feel angry and powerless. But I shouldn't be surprised.

* * *

There is a moment that I will carry with me from the openning day of the G8 in Scotland last summer. We were standing right outside the Gleneagles hotel (how we managed to get there is a separate story), having this mock-blocade, with lots of children and the Samba band. Mock - because no car tried to get in in the two hours we there. They were flying everybody in by helicopters. It was drizzly but fun.

Finally one car tried to get through, advancing slowly on the bridge. I remember one girl who, her eyes calm and quiet, her hands in the pockets of her jumper, sat down a couple of meters from the approaching car. She did this almost casually, quickly but with no rush, is some sudden slowness. I could see no aggression or performance in her act.

Not a second later four riot-poice in full gear were out to get her out of the way. This is the moments were the cameras were taken out. The police cameras. The protestors cameras, journalists, mobile pones cameras, everybody putting their hands up so they could capture it. Dozens, hundreds of clicks. Time slowed down, as if in a climax of a football match.
A second more, and she was carried out of the way. It was over.

I thought of the hundres of images of this non-event. And how they were, in some sense, much more important that the event itself. And how all parties understand this now - police and protestors alike. And how digital media made this explosion of images possible; how the respect for the single photograph is lost and we are drowning in images which we cannot take in or make any meaning of. All very intellectual thoughts.

But now I think of the image which nobody captured, but will remain in my head: the look on that girl's face, two seconds before she sat down: calm and quiet, bored almost, and yet resolved and straight and simple. A good starting point for politics, I think.
Credit: Mario.

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