A press photographer Rich Felgate tweeted out a video showing police arresting him for documenting Just Stop Oil protests (Photo: Twitter/Rich Felgate)
A press photographer and a documentary maker left the camera rolling when police officers arrested them for filming Just Stop Oil’s protests this week.
In a short clip shared on Twitter, filmmaker Rich Felgate catches photographer Tom Bowles being interrupted by police and immediately told he was “under arrest”.
Bowles protested: “I’m press, I’m a member of the press. Can I show you my press card?
“Sorry officer, you can’t arrest me because I’m here as a member of the press, I don’t know what you mean...”
The clip was then interrupted by another officer who intercepted Felgate’s recording to arrest him.
Felgate can be heard saying: “I’m quite obviously a member of the press. Why are you searching me?
“Why are you handcuffing me if you’re just searching me?”
Felgate repeatedly refused to hand over his camera in the video while officers keep insisting he hands it over.
Felgate eventually said: “I probably don’t have much choice, do I?”
Then the footage is cut short. The surprising clip had more than 200,000 views in less than 12 hours.
Yesterday, myself, a documentary filmmaker and @tomsdinner, a press photographer, got arrested by @HertsPolice whilst filming the @JustStopOil protest from a public footbridge over the #M25.
— Rich Felgate (@richfelgate) November 8, 2022
Felgate later told LBC: “This is the second time I’ve been arrested just for filming the protest.”
He said he was filming from a footbridge, a public space going over the M25 which is also “a common route for dog walkers, and it was quite some distance from where the protests were happening.”
Felgate said he and the fellow photographer heard the police say they should be detained.
“They were not interested in looking at any press ID, wouldn’t entertain any conversation about what we were doing or the fact that we were there as professional journalists, exercising our right and responsibility to report on these newsworthy events,” he claimed.
The filmmaker claimed officers said they needed to search him for items which “could be used to commit criminal damage”, but found nothing.
Felgate later tweeted: “Obviously they found nothing, so an officer said, ‘just arrest them for conspiracy instead then.’”
Police had no interest in seeing press ID and handcuffed us instantly on arrival. They said they needed to search me for items which could be used to commit criminal damage. Obviously, they found nothing, so an officer said “just arrest them for conspiracy instead then”.
— Rich Felgate (@richfelgate) November 8, 2022
He claimed he was arrested by Hertfordshire Police, his equipment seized and taken to the police station, before he and Bowles were held in custody for about 13 hours and questioned by the investigating officer.
Felgate told LBC’s Nick Ferrari it “really took some explaining” for the “very sceptical” police to believe they were “professional, independent journalists”.
He said it was not “just a one-off mistake”, but a trend. He tweeted that he is aware of at least seven other journalists being arrested during the protests so far.
“That makes me think that just anyone who is on the scene is seen as a target by the police.”
Felgate pointed out that “everyone wants a free press in the country”, and that he is not a member of Just Stop Oil.
The filmmaker also said the police enquired about how he knew when these protests were taking place, which would compromise his journalistic ethics to reveal.
His colleague allegedly also had his house searched and his daughter’s iPad confiscated.
Felgate claimed he and Bowles were then released without without further action.
'This is the second time I've been arrested just for filming the protest.'
Documentary filmmaker Rich Felgate, who is making a film about Just Stop Oil, opens up to Nick Ferrari about getting arrested by Hertfordshire Police.@NickFerrariLBC | @richfelgatepic.twitter.com/P93wmgh8gG
— LBC (@LBC) November 8, 2022
The Metropolitan Police has described its efforts to stop the mass protests as a “significant operation”, as it had tried to “proactively” arrest activists who were suspected of planning action on the motorways.
The Met’s own website reads: “Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.”
HuffPost UK approached Hertfordshire Police for comment on the journalists’ arrests.
It replied: “Seven arrests were made following the protest activity yesterday (Monday 7 November). Of those, three people have been released with no further action following extensive enquiries. Two people have been charged, and two people have been released on police bail with conditions.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.