20 March 2012

Reality of how the forces protect us from 'terror'

This is a rare and useful insight for those who still believe the police and other state officials (e.g. immigration officers, etc.) are the voice of reason, the enablers of civil liberty, and the maintainers of security.

Read Paul Lewis' article and please watch the film to hear Italian art student Simona Bonomo's encounter with Police Community Service Officer (PCSO) Thomas Cooke, here:


Below is the transcript of the initial exchange between Simona Bonomo and Thomas Cooke, as recorded in the footage above. Take note of the way the officers are trained to assume malicious intent (even when told the opposite by the person they are interrogating and even if the responses are plausible) by misconstruing every answer into some potential mask of real ('terrorist'?) intentions.

The question is, then, how are we supposed to respond in such circumstances? As Simona says, "I told you and you don't believe me so what" - and I will finish this interrupted sentence for her - am I meant to say?

Thomas Cooke: Just wanted to know why you're filming.
Simona Bonomo: Why not?
TC: Is there any reason, at all?
SB: No. Just for fun.
TC: Just for fun?
SB: Mmm.
TC: Right.
SB: Why not?
TC: [indicating] These buildings?
SB: Mmm.
TC: Do you like looking at them [sic] buildings, do you?
SB: Yeah, they are beautiful.
TC: Are they?
SB: Yes.
TC: And that's why you're ... ? Yes. Right, so you're basically filming for fun?
SB: Yeah.
TC: I don't believe you.
SB: No? [laughing]
TC: No.
SB: Then what? Do you have any proof?
TC: Not really, but I've seen you film. I just wanted to know why you're filming, that's all.
SB: Yeah, and I told you and you don't believe me so what ... ?
TC: Can I see what you filmed?
SB: Errr, no. I don't think you have the right to do that.
TC: Well, I can have a look if I want to -
SB: Errr, I think ...
TC: - if I believe it may be linked to terrorism, then I can.
SB: Oh, wha, terrorism!
TC: This is an iconic site, this is an iconic site.
SB: Maybe just because I dress like ...
TC: Not at all like that.
SB: ... a terrorist, or what?
TC: No, no, 'cause erm ...
SB: So then I don't think you have any right to believe that I'm a terrorist.
TC: I never said you were, I never said you were - a terrorist. If you were videoing you would be able to replay that.
SB: Sorry?
TC: If you were videoing me, then you would be able to see when you rewind it that I never actually called you a terrorist, I said that this site is an iconic site, OK, due to the large buildings ...


TC: Just tell me, have you got an interest in buildings? What's the reason? Why?
SB: Yes I am. I'm an artist, actually, so ...
TC: You're an artist. Have you got any proof? Have you got any identification?
SB: Errrrr. No. [laughs] No.
TC: No identification at all?
SB: No ...
TC: ... OK.
SB: Errr ... no.
TC: How come? You can't prove you're an artist?
SB: I don't have any other identification that says I'm a ...
TC: Have you got any identification on you?
SB: Err, I don't think you have any write to ask me for an identification without any reason, without me doing any harm to anyone.
TC: No, it's just that you're filming a site, here, in Paddington, that's, as I say, iconic to us. So, I just wanted to know why you were filming.
SB: So, so what? So what?
TC: And your answer to me, "just for fun", isn't really very - relevant. And I find that you're very, being very cocky towards me at the moment, when I'm asking you politely, why. If you had an interest in buildings when you first said that to me then I'd be quite happy to accept that.

The PCSO then says that he had previously seen Simona cycling the wrong way down a one-way street and fines her for that. [...]

TC: You were facing down the wrong way of the traffic. Did you realise that?
SB: I realised it late.
TC: You realised it late?
SB: And when I realised it I went down the ...
TC: The wrong way, yeah?
SB: ... bike.
SB: Come on, I went down the bike when I realised that. [She means to say "I got off the bike", in Italian (and other romance languages) one 'goes down' from the bike: scendere dalla bici] I'm a student, don't fine me. Just because you don't like me ...
TC: No, I never said I didn't like you ...
SB: ... just because you think I'm a terrorist!
TC: No, no, no, I never said that, you keep mentioning that word, I never said that. I said, it may have terrorist implications if you're filming areas that are iconic to us under our Section 44. OK? This is why we ask you. I've come to you very politely, I've asked you what you're filming and, for me, you're being very cocky towards me by saying "just for fun". OK? It's not just for fun, if you had an interest in buildings I'd be happy and took that on the side but you haven't, you've not explained to me the reason.
SB: Ah, just because I don't say the right answer, come on.
TC: I'm not looking for any answer. I'm just looking for an answer.
SB: I've told you, I'm a student, I'm doing an art project and that's it.
TC: Well, there we are. There we are, you see? You're a student, which you didn't tell me at the start. You're now doing an art project, which you didn't tell me at the start. OK, so if you'd told me that at the start we probably wouldn't be in the situation that we're in now.

A short while later the PCSOs return with four police officers who push Simona to the ground, all get on top of her, twist her arm back to cause extra pain, and then arrest her for filming. It should be noted that the builders working nearby were "booing from the distance" (i.e. in support of Bonomo). In the end Bonomo received a fine for causing 'harassment, alarm and distress in a public place'.

EDIT: This was Simona Bonomo's blog up until June 2010: simonabonomo.wordpress.com.


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