British journalists are concerned about the pre-Olympic militarization in London and the incursion on individual rights that is strengthened by the likes of the so-called hostage-taking incident over a failed drivers’ license on Friday.
Stories of the incident spread like wild fire in media and reports of a “crisis” involving an “armed” hostage-taker put the public on the alert that they may be facing a serious security risk.
However, the incident turned out to be much less dramatic after it emerged that the so-called hostage-taker was only a client of a training company, enraged after failing a drivers’ test three times and that there were no hostages involved.
The police were also quick to dismiss any terror-related risks to the upcoming Olympics.
Olympics organizers have announced 23,000 guards will be watching the games venues as the world sports spotlight turns to London between July 27 and August 12, while another 13,000 soldiers will hit the streets.
A missile-bearing aircraft carrier will be also on standby on the river Thames, unmanned drones will keep a watch and an 11-mile electrified security barrier will cordon off unwanted disturbance.
That, coupled with the Friday incident, raises questions on where the real risks to the games are, risks that warrant the use of an army larger than the British force in Afghanistan to secure the games, and such massive extra protective measures.
Answering such a question becomes even more urgent when considering the fact that neither the government, Scotland Yard nor the security services have confirmed any terror threats to the games amid sporadic reports to the contrary.
That intensifies speculations that the government is being intentionally vague on the matter to advance its police state policies.
The Home Office is now pushing to pass an emergency anti-terrorist stop-and-search powers bill through the parliament before the Olympics that will give the police permanent right to frisk anyone they suspect of being linked to terrorists on the sole basis of suspicion.
This is while not a single arrest out of the 101,248 cases of stop-and-search in 2009-2010 led to a terror-related detention.
Yet again, the Olympic security can be a proper justification to get the freedom bill and its stop-and-search section passed.
According to documentary photographer Marc Vallee there is “no legitimate reason” to make the stop-and-search powers permanent.
“In fact, there is no sound argument for not scrapping it. Like many photographers, I’m worried about how the military and security mobilization for London 2012 is going to affect how we work and what we document. We all have a common law right to take a picture in a public place,” Vallee wrote in a comment for The Guardian.
He also quoted a “friend” the photojournalist Guy Smallman, “who is best known for his work on Afghanistan” as saying he would prefer to leave London during the games to avoid the police state.
“I am not usually a quitter in the face of authoritarian bureaucracy. But the sheer inconvenience of trying to haul a camera bag around my home city, when it is populated by several thousand paranoid spooks, does not appeal in the slightest. So instead I have decided to join the exodus and spend that time working somewhere less militarized. Like Kandahar for example,” Vallee quoted Smallman as saying.