Freelance photographer Andy Aitchison was recently arrested in the United Kingdom for performing the duties of his job: documenting an event. Aitchison was tasked with photographing a protest, and after he concluded his business and uploaded his images, he was arrested at his home.
According to a report on The Independent, Aitchison attended the demonstration outside the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, England and took photos of protestors throwing buckets of fake blood at the gates to the site. The protest came in response to concerns that asylum seekers housed in the barracks were facing poor living conditions. For example, over 100 of those housed there have contracted the coronavirus in the last two weeks.
Aitchison concluded his on-site reporting and his images were later used in local press reports. But more than six hours after the demonstration concluded, Aitchison was arrested at his home by five police officers under “suspicion of criminal damage of a dwelling.”
Police seized his mobile phone and the memory card from his camera and was taken to the local police station where he was held for more than five hours before being released on bail. According to the report, Aitchison’s bail has been granted until his February 22 hearing and he was specifically instructed not to return to the Napier barracks until the case had been concluded.
In an interview with The Independent, Aitchison said it was the first time he had ever been arrested, and the experience of being detained as the result of the work he does felt “bizarre.”
“It feels like a light has been shone on them and they’ve got the sledgehammer out,” he said. “It’s censorship: if you don’t toe the line, we shut you down.”
According to Aitchison, the demonstration at the barracks lasted for no more than 10 minutes and was nonviolent. He says that the buckets of fake blood were simply food coloring, water, and shampoo/conditioner.
Additionally, Aitchison did not take part in the protest but was simply there to document it as a member of the free press. The National Union of Journalists said that it was “extremely concerned by the arrest.
“Andrew was present solely as a journalist and took no part in the protest,” the organization added.
“It does seem like a political thing. People have highlighted how bad things are there, and I’ve shared that with the world, and because of that I’ve been hit. It’s going to have an impact on me for the rest of my life, and for work,” Aitchison said.
Photo credits: Header photo by Just Jack.