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Sunday, 4 January 2009

Yesterday's Gaza Demo-Police Stupidity?

The crowd are herded towards the underpass tunnel
I covered the Palestinian Gaza demo yesterday and was astonished by the route chosen by the Police for the march. After the rally at Trafalgar Square, the march made its way to the Israeli embassy on High Street Kensington. I've been covering demos for over 19 years now and have never once seen a march involving many thousands of people taken into a tunnel (the underpass at Hyde Park Corner). As we were herded by the Police into the tunnel I knew it was a seriously bad idea. To make matters worst, nobody was allowed to use another route, so women and children, some in prams, were all pushed through the tunnel.
A distressed woman rushed away from the violence at the front
The problem was that there was a Police line at the front and surely enough when we were in the middle section, it all kicked off. Sadly I was several meters back so didn't see what happened. The protesters naturally said that for no reason the Police started to strike the floor with their batons and then began to hit people in the front of the march. I would think that there must have been a provocation as I saw wooden sticks being thrown over my head towards Police lines. I heard one fleeing woman shout that stones were being thrown at the Police.Whatever the reason, this resulted in a mild stampede and the crowd in front of me suddenly turned around and began to run. Screaming and panic ensued. Alas, by the time I reached the front all the commotion had stopped.
To cram thousands of people through a tunnel without any escape exits is utter stupidity. I think everyone was fortunate that there weren't any injuries suffered apart from those hit by batons.
If anyone knows anyone who is placed high in the Metropolitan Police, please be kind enough to pass this post onto them.
The crowd are jubilant as they approach the tunnel's exit


  1. dalemannpj@gmail.com4 January 2009 at 22:38

    Hello Edmond,

    Nice shots in the tunnel considering how difficult it must be. How did you manage to shoot this? You would be so jammed up it would be difficult to reach cameras let alone grab gear out of camera bags?

  2. Hi Dale,
    Thanks for the kind words.
    I had a very wide Canon 16-35mm f2.8L on my 1D MkIII on one shoulder (did most of the tunnel shots on this) and another 1D MkIII with a 70-200 f2.8L on the other. I also shot video on a Canon 5D MkII with a 24.105mm f4L around my neck! I didn't have to change lenses much, but carried a Rode VideoMic, water, batteries, flash and a tele-converter in a ThinkTank Photo "Change-Up" (which is like a waist bag which sits nearer the chest and has shoulder straps). To top this, I also had my MacBook Pro laptop in a ThinkTank Photo "Shape Shifter" back pack on my back.
    On this kind of assignment I just have the cameras and lenses I need out - there just isn't enough time to change lenses and fiddle around in a bag. You can quite easily miss shots and in the pushing and running easily drop equipment. The biggest problem I had was trying to push myself (politely!) through the crowds to try and always be where the action was!