Friday, July 22

Police! Stop!

For me, Fridays mean a trip to a mosque close to my workplace to pray Jummah. Of course a few people told me to skip it this week, y'know 'cos of the previous day's events, but I just shrugged it off explaining that the likelihood of anything happening would be pretty slim, bearing in mind that a guy had been shot five times this morning.

Crossing Wellington Arch, I noticed (although it woulda been hard not to) that the roundabout was filled with police vans, with around eight to ten officers per van. And I mean filled - we're talking 20-25 vans here. Clearly Wellington Arch had been made into some kinda makeshift Central Police Response Centre (and yes, I made that up myself).

So I did what any passer-by would do: whip out my cameraphone and start taking pictures. Shouldn't be any harm in that, I thought, guessing that I wasn't the first or last to do this. So I took a few and made my way to the mosque where I read my Jummah prayer.

On my way back, around an hour or so later and while crossing the same vans, I noticed that I was getting a few looks from some of the officers. Instinctively I smiled back and carried on walking. After passing them I heard and saw from the corner of my eye a van door slamming. Still I carried on walking.

I'm not sure why I turned around a few seconds later - maybe someone ahead of me was looking over my shoulder, maybe it was just instinct; more likely it was a combination of the two. Two officers were heading directly toward me, flagging me down and asking me to hold up.

They explained that they had seen me taking pictures of them and wouldn't have even given me a second thought if I hadn't adding that now they wanted to stop and search me. I'm not usually rattled by these things so I was fine with it, curious more than anything else. They went through my pockets (I've not seen that much action since primary school I tell you), asked me the standard questions for identification purposes (It's handy working in Belgravia, although surprisingly they didn't get around to asking what a Hedge Fund actually was) and called it all in. All in all, they were quite nice and polite.

I cooperated of course, because a) I've nothing against them and understand the current situation, b) I know how to handle these things and they were courteous toward me and c) some guy had been shot five times this morning. Having said that I did contest the description they put down for my hair ("Skinhead". I mean, please). Oh and I was disappointed that I didn't have to be given a shoulder number due to my being stopped under the Terrorism Act (not that I'm going to pursue this or anything).

So was it the picture taking that drew their attention to me? Possibly, but I think it was more of a legitimate excuse than anything else. When asking what they woulda done if I hadn't returned the same way they said that plenty of people were taking pictures but I'm the only one who returned after such a small period of time. I do have a very "visible" walk and smile way too much, and probably should be flattered that they remembered what I looked like, but I guess I'll never really know.

It is a bit weird being a statistic, and that of the Terrorism Act no less. And if you're curious I'm ok. I'm not even shaken or anything - I'm more amused than anything else, especially after all the claims I made this morning of life in London being business as normal. It's also interesting to experience this first hand; I've been gagging to use the ol' "So have you ever been stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act then? No? Well then SHUT UP" argument for a while now.

Anyway, here's one of the troublesome pictures that I took:

The rest are on my Flickr and I'll leave it to you to decide whether it was worth it or not. What is clear, however, is that I really should get a new cameraphone...