A photographer and filmmaker have said they were held in police custody for around 13 hours after being arrested while reporting on a Just Stop Oil protest.
Documentary maker Rich Felgate and photographer Tom Bowles had been capturing the activists on a footbridge over the M25 near Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, at close to 11am on Monday when they were handcuffed.
The pair, both of whom say have no affiliation with the group, had their equipment seized and were taken to a police station, despite efforts to show their press cards.
Mr Bowles, 47, from Hackney, east London, told PA he was held until 1.30am, hours after his wife and 14-year-old daughter were woken up as three officers searched their home.
— Rich Felgate (@richfelgate) November 8, 2022
He went on: “As a photographer I’ve covered hundreds of protests and I’ve never been along as a protester, it’s not my cup of tea, I photograph them and that’s it.
“I feel pretty cross, I’m aware of the police and how they interact with people and they generally do a pretty good job, but yesterday was absolutely shocking.
“I’ve not photographed an arrest that’s as bad as the ones that me and Rich went through.
“I said ‘good morning officer’ as he walked to me and he grabbed my arm, pulled me away, told me to secure my camera and told me he was arresting me and put handcuffs on me straight away.
“I’m not a big bloke, I’m not a fighter, but he held me and put the handcuffs on while I was still holding my camera, so it was all very quick and very unnecessary.”
Police said five people were arrested after protesters attempted to climb overhead gantries at various junctions.
Mr Felgate, 30, who is making a documentary on Just Stop Oil, claimed officers had suggested the pair were involved in planning the protest.
He went on: “For them to make that jump is just astounding, it felt very concerning that it didn’t matter about press IDs.
“This isn’t the first time they’ve arrested members of the press at Just Stop Oil protests, they know full well they’re arresting members of the press.
“It feels like a trend rather than a mistake.”
The British Press Photographers’ Association (BPPA) said it “strongly condemns” the arrests.
It added: “News gatherers should be able to operate freely without fear of arrest.”
Hertfordshire Police said: “In line with standard policing practice, we would not name or confirm the identity of anyone who has been arrested or anyone suspected of a crime other than in exceptional circumstances.
“We can confirm that three people who were arrested in connection with the protest activity yesterday have been released with no further action.”