Photography is not a crime … however, also in Belgium some police seem to think differently about people recording what they do. Even if a photographer is also a judge.
In the night of 26-27 August 2015, in a street in Bruges, Belgium, there was trouble between English Manchester United and Belgian football supporters. Many people living there made videos with their smartphones of police arresting football fans.
Including local judge Jan Nolf, who lives in that street as well.
Translated from Mr Nolf’s blog today:
No policeman objected to the filming or photographing.
Except suddenly that one, and then just when I wanted to make a picture of the lighted Halletoren [or: Belfry], right in the line of the street into view above the forest of white police helmets.
Now I will tell you literally about the “conversation”:
“I do not film, I am photographing” (while I was putting away my photo equipment into my right pocket).
The masked policeman gets close to me. “Stop filming!” Since my photo equipment was already in my right pocket, I answered somewhat puzzledly: “I did not film, I took a picture.”
It seems like under his helmet he is deaf, because he repeats “Stop filming,” making me wonder what is really his intention.
So I ask “Why?”
The gruff answer is again: ‘Stop filming “- while I still have my camera in my right pocket (my iPhone during the whole scene remained in my left pocket).
I answer calmly shrugging my shoulders: “I did not film but I do not really agree that it is illegal.”
The man immediately shouts out a command and three helmeted and masked policemen frogmarch me away to the other side of the street … There they put me against the wall immediately with my hands on my back firmly enthralled with narrow straps.
Then I am led to the queue for the bus for the arrested people from Manchester.
Before I step on the bus, I ask the police three times if they realize what they are doing. They look at me and do not answer. Nobody asks for my ID.
The whole scene is too crazy to be true and that keeps me calm all the time in an unlikely way. I do wonder what will happen to me on the bus.
Judge Nolf ended up being freed without charges. He will lodge a complaint about this police behaviour.