With blood on my face at the police station...
The scene was the Roots Festival in the Oosterpark, quite near my house, an annual event where music from around the world is played and performed on various stages in the park, as the opening to a week long Roots Festival in Amsterdam. Always something to look forward to, especially as I like music from around the world and because of the nice relaxed multicultural atmosphere. The sun was shining, my mother and brother were with me and it was a good day.
My Mum was feeling a little tired so we took her to the bicycles so she could cycle home and as we walked back into the park, I saw a couple of security guards. I had seen a few before and I was intrigued by who they were given that they were wearing grey polo shorts with a large logo of what looked like an American Eagle, with the motto in an American-type font saying ' TO SERVE AND PROTECT SECURITY - We Serve for your Protection' Interesting, I thought, the outsourcing and privatisation of police duties and this time to what looked like an American company with American shareholders profiting from what the police no longer feel able to do. Interesting also, because last week at The Derby, the police were mostly gone, to be replaced by privatised security guards.
Anyway, as we walked into the park, I paused momentarily to take a photo of what seemed to be a nice looking security guard, from the back showing his logo. At that very moment, the other security guard looked round and must have seen me take a photo as he came up to me and asked if I had taken a photo. ' Yes I have', I said, and 'I will take another one', which I duly did.
This provoked him to grab my arms and hold on to my camera, as he told me that I was not allowed to take a photo of him or his colleague and that he was going to call the police. I didn't bother to argue with him but I was pretty sure I have the right to take a photograph of anyone in a public area in Holland, but this was a big man, twice as strong as me and I saw no point in making him angry or feel stupid.
So we waited there for the police to turn up and he started getting increasingly impatient, which got me more impatient and at some and decided to struggle to get out of his grip. Which I did, albeit ending up in a prickly bush, where all of a sudden I was surrounded by or four other big men in grey polo shirts. They grabbed me and pulled me out of teh bushes and then held me, from where I struggled again and managed to get away, back again into that stupid hedge. I tried to run this time, but I was caught again and this time they started getting more violent, twisting my arm behind my back and forcing it upwards, one of them called out to his colleagues not to hit me. Instead, having gained an audience for themselves they tried to drag me out of the park, with me kicking and wriggling and trying to get away.
It was here that the police finally appeared as all of a sudden I was being told to lie down on the pavement and to be peaceful. I turned my back to see the white shirt of a policeman, but I could not lie down peacefully as I was being held by various other people (I could not see them as they were all behind me). Then the policeman got angry and started shouting and then pushed me down, while someone was still holding onto my arm, giving me excruciating pain, so I screamed and screamed and screamed. Then along came the handcuffs, which they applied in the wrong way, so that they bit into my left wrist, which got me screaming again, partly out of pain, partly for effect.
Lots of commotion going on, with my brother being held by the security guards, or by now being let free, although he was not being allowed to get anywhere near me, not even to give me a tissue to clear up all the blood which was apparently dripping from my face. An ambulance man turned up and asked if I was OK and whether I would like him to clear me up. I was not OK and I did not want him to clear up the blood on my face What the hell was he doing there anyway, with two colleagues at his side as well.
So eventually, without anyone from the police having tried to find out from me what had happened I was asked to go to the police station where I was interviewed and asked for my side of the story.... which is what you have above.
I was told that I DID have the right to take photographs of anyone I like and that the security guard had no business to hold on to me.
I could accept, in some way, the bad treatment I received from the security guards, as that is what you expect from those sort of people but I do have a residual amount of respect for the police. So, I was interested to know why I was treated so badly by the police. I asked the interviewing policeman if the police who had been sent to the scene had known beforehand what I was supposed to have done - that I had taken a photo, rather than attacked a woman or stole someone's purse or wallet and I was told that they did not know. They had heard from passers-by that there was a ' fight' and they had seen me struggling and acting in a heated and violent way, so their priority was to ' calm me down' and put me out of action.
Well, I am quite amazed and disappointed about this... and when I went back to the station later, encouraged by Fred and my mother to make a statement, I was told that two of the police at the scene had made signed statements saying that I ha acted in a violent way towards, them, kicking them and so on.... which was a complete lie. They had come up from behind me and forced me to the ground, whilst I was being held by security guards or whoever they were. Once on the ground there was nothing I could do but scream. So they lied as well... and what can you do?
I was also told that the original security guard had sustained physical injuries - a broken fingernail or a scratch on his hand. Big deal. All I did was try to get away from him. And there i not too much point on making a complaint against him regarding violence as it was not so much him as his colleagues who had applied the most amount of violence.
The interviewing police officer told me that he had given this security man a good telling-off and that a very critical report would be sent to the man's personnel dossier, serving as a strong official warning, such that if he does a similar thing again he could lose his licence and job.
Anyway, these things happen sometimes. I was told off by the policeman for provoking the stand off by taking a second photo and for trying to escape, and he is a bit right, but still.
On the way out of the park after we were let free, we passed the area again and saw the original security guard, the good looking one. He had remained quiet and unemotional the whole time, not wanting to get involved in any of the nonsense being created by his colleague and the other thugs. I told him that I had no bad intentions with taking his photo and he said it was OK. We chatted and it turned out that he comes from Kayseri, in Turkey, so I told him that we had been there and wished him good luck for the match later in the evening. It wasn't looking good when Turkey were 2-0 with twenty minutes to go, but sure enough they came good and won 2-3, rounding off an excellent week for football results.
Thanks, Richard, Mum and Fred for your support, as well as all my flickr friends. It has been quite therapeutic to have been able to share this with you.