Depsite the stall being set up directly opposite the wardens' HQ, with the banner staring them in the face as they came out of the front door, the Burgundy Bullies chose not to come and discuss the issue with the campaigners!
The wardens clearly have no mandate from the Worthing public to try and take over our town centre - if we all speak out against their presence we should be able to kick them out of town!
We cannot allow them to get away with this and we are aiming to hold an info stall, informing the public of what's going on, on Saturday August 30, from 11am to around 2pm at Holder's Corner, Montague Street (next to Liverpool Gardens). Since there is obviously a chance that the wardens will decided we are not "allowed" to have a stall in the town centre, as we and others have been for many many years on a range of issues, it would be helpful if as many people as possible could get down to join us and ensure that they are not allowed to crush free speech on the streets of our town.
This issue will also be discussed at the Worthing Alliance meeting on Thursday August 28, 8pm upstairs at The Rest, Bath Place. Open meeting - all welcome (apart from town wardens)!
Following the incident on June 28 (see press release below), Worthing town centre manager Sharon Clark made a number of misleading statements to the media. No, hang on, let's not beat around the bush here. She came up with a load of fibs to get her and her wardens off the hook. At least three people wrote to the local press to put the record straight, but since their letters were not published (although there was one good letter on the issue in the Herald), we are putting them up on this website instead.
Why so reticent all of a sudden Mrs Clarke?
Because until last weekend you have been spinning an ever-changing web of disinformation in the media, and making serious allegations against us - all apparently intended to deflect criticism of the Town Wardens, who it appears are unaware of the laws regarding photography and peaceful protest!
Those allegations against us include harassment, and intimidating and threatening behaviour. I put it to you Mrs Clarke that it was the behaviour of the Town Wardens that was intimidating in their attempt to enforce a law that simply does not exist, and indeed it was us that were being harassed!
The fact is that we did not put our cameras 'right in their faces' as has been alleged, because it was them that approached and challenged us, not the other way around! In fact they were some considerable distance away from us when we were photographing the cctv camera and surroundings. The video taken was to show what they were doing after approaching us, and to provide others with evidence of their inability to properly assess the situation.
The Town Manager has twice been given the opportunity to debate this issue with me live on radio, and yet has declined both times. Why is that? After all, as we're frequently being told 'if you've got nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear'!
So could it be because the other 'event' we were apparently 'drowning out' have contacted us to say they had no problem with what we were doing? So who exactly did complain?
Could it be because you realise that the actions of the Town Wardens were incorrect, and don't want to be questioned as to their status within the town?
Could it be that you don't wish to be challenged directly over your allegations? And how come it appears acceptable to film us, and yet when the tables are turned you cry 'foul'?
Could it be because the very thing we were highlighting (the uselessness of cctv cameras) could be exposed, as had there been any footage of any wrong-doing (as you have alleged), where is it?
Or simply because it's the truth that no illegal behaviour on our part actually occurred!
So because of the unsubstantiated lies told about us, and the initial incorrect actions of the Town Wardens, we are demanding a public apology. After all, Worthing police have had the decency to apologise to someone challenged in Worthing over a similar photography issue recently.
In order to have a harmonious, yet inclusive town centre, we have to have fair laws and fair enforcement for all. So we would also like an explanation as to why we now have an apparently untrained, private, and unaccountable security force (labelled as Town Wardens) and an unelected Town Manager deciding what the people of Worthing may or may not do in their own town, regardless of what the laws actually allow.
I joined the 'CCTV tour of Worthing,' partly out of curiousity and partly because I have been disturbed to read of people in other parts of the country being prevented by the police from taking photographs in public places: I wondered what the response would be in Worthing.
My recollection of the incident at Holder's Corner is much the same as Mr. Bradford's, and very different from the interpretation offered to you by Sharon Clarke, the Town Cente Manager. Phtographs were being taken of the CCTV cameras and information was being given through a magaphone regarding the effectiveness and cost of CCTV. As far as I could see no one was being disturbed or in any way disrupted and certainly no one made a complaint.
Three wardens appeared at the entrance of their offices at 1 Liverpool Terrace and very quickly made a bee-line for those who were gathered around the CCTV camera, talking and taking pictures. They stated, in no uncertain terms, that we could not take photographs, either of themselves or their offices. One warden claimed that their human rights were being breached. They were unable to reference the law which prohibited the taking of such photographs, nor would they give their names when asked to do so.
Sharon Clarke was quoted as saying that the wardens had the right not to be photographed and that they felt intimidated by having their pictures taken. This of course was the whole point of the protest: every day, everyone of us is being photographed by CCTV. Worse than this, the police now routinely photograph and video protests, demonstrations and vigils. They even video revellers at Lewes Bonfire celebrations. The Police helicopter routinely shatters peaceful summer afternoons, flying low over residential properties and gardens and it is equiped with video recording equipment.
In a free society no one should be subject to this intrusion except for dangerous criminals. In our society, we are all beginning to be treated as criminals. The only exception to this new and frightening reality are the law enforcement agencies themselves, who apparently believe that they should be exempt from the surveillance the rest of us are forced to endure.
It took many centuries to establish free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. Unless we all join together now to defend these freedoms, we will surely lose them to the police state that some politicians seem eager to impose on us.
WE CANNOT allow town centre manager Sharon Clarke to get away with the misleading version of events she delivered in response to the incident regarding photography in Montague Place, Worthing.
1. To describe our conduct as "threatening and intimidating" is an absurd reversal of what actually went on, as anyone who saw the video footage would realise. It was us who were approached by three wardens who proceeded to tell us not to take photos and then, as the video shows, physically grabbed at our megaphone in an attempt to silence our protest at their actions. If the town centre wardens really feel threatened and intimidated by people arguing points of law with them, then maybe they are not the right men for the job.
2. She states: "On arrival, members of the group started taking very close-up photographs of the wardens." This is not correct. On arrival, we were at least 20 yards from the wardens, who were gathered outside their offices, which seem to be at 1 Liverpool Gardens. They spotted us, clearly decided they did not like the look of us and marched over en masse to tell us to stop whatever it was we were doing. It was only then that they were near enough for us to take any "very close-up photographs" and we did so with the purpose of gathering evidence on what was happening.
3. She states that invidivduals, by which she presumably means the wardens, "had the right to request they [photos] were not taken". They did not 'request', they demanded! And while they have the right to request, there is no legal obligation to comply. If there was, we would all presumably be able to have the town's CCTV cameras switched off simply by requesting that they stop filming us. Or doesn't it work that way round?
4. We had not been in Montague Place for more than two or three minutes when the incident occurred, as we had been touring the town, only stopping briefly at each CCTV camera on the route. It would therefore be surprising if the wardens had indeed "received complaints about the protesters' noisy megaphones". In fact, we only had one megaphone and no mention of it was made by the wardens when they approached us - it was only the photography that seemed to interest them. The megaphone only entered centre stage when one of our group picked it up to voice his concerm at what was happening.
We are very disappointed that Sharon Clarke has not only declined to apologise for the wardens' behaviour - now seen by hundreds of thousands of residents across the region - but has made things even worse by misrepresenting what happened during an incident she did not even personally witness.
Your readers can rest assured we will not be letting this matter rest.
for The Porkbolter
1. She claims in The Argus that we were "causing a disruption to a group who had booked an event space to promote their art festival." In fact, we had not been in Montague Place for more than two or three minutes when the incident occurred, as we had been touring the town, only stopping briefly at each CCTV camera on the route as part of our low-key and light-hearted tour. It would therefore have been difficult for us to have caused much disruption to anyone in that short space of time. Furthermore, we have contacted Dan Thompson, organiser of the Artists and Makers Festival to which she refers, and he assures us that we did not disupt anything they were doing and they made no complaints.
2. Mrs Clarke is reported as saying "the photographers were asked not to take close-up photos of another group using the area, who had become distressed". We did not even notice any other group in the area, let alone take close-up photos of them! She was not herself present on the afternoon in question. Where is her evidence for this assertion?
3. Mrs Clarke adds: "They were asked nicely to move to an area where they would not disrupt an organised event that the public were enjoying." This short sentence is a complete fabrication on no fewer than four counts. Firstly, the wardens did not 'ask' us anything, they ordered us to stop taking photos. Secondly, they did not do so 'nicely' but in a bullying and aggressive manner - this is why were so upset and have gone out of our way to draw attention to the incident. Thirdly, there was no mention of us moving anywhere, just the assertion that it was an offence to take photos in a public place. Fourthly, as we have established, we were not disrupting any event.
4. She declares: "It is not against the law to take photographs in the town but it is also not against the law for an individual to request that their picture is not taken." This is not the point. Her wardens told us it was against the law to take photos. They did not 'request' that we stop, but tried to intimidate us into stopping and then phyiscally tried to grab our megaphone when we used it to let the public know what was happening. People can see this on the video. And besides, while anyone obviously has the right to request that someone else doesn't take a photo of them, there is no legal obligation to comply. If there was, we would all presumably be able to have the town's CCTV cameras switched off simply by requesting that they stop filming us. Or doesn't it work that way round?
Having been outraged by the actions of the town wardens in the first instance, we are now doubly angered by Mrs Clarke's misleading response and we will not be letting this matter rest.
for The Porkbolter
Now they have posted video footage on the internet to draw attention to Saturday's (JUNE 28) incident, which involved three of the borough's new 'burgundy' town wardens.
Dave Phillips from the long-running local newsletter The Porkbolter explained that a small group of supporters had been taking part in a tongue-in-cheek 'celebration' of the 12th anniversary of Worthing's CCTV cameras.
He said: "We started at the station and had worked our way into town, stopping off at various cameras and making a brief comment or two through a megaphone, while also pointing our own little cameras back at the surveillance cameras.
"It was all very light-hearted and easy-going until we reached Holder's Corner in Montague Street and these wardens came storming over to tell us we weren't allowed to take photos in a public place!
"They wouldn't tell us what law this was supposed to be under and they wouldn't give us their names - we also noticed they did not have any visible identification, in the way that police do.
"None of us could believe what was happening and one of our group was so outraged he picked up the megaphone and started telling all the shoppers around what was going on. They didn't like that and one of the wardens actually grabbed the megaphone and tried to pull it away from him - we've got all that on video."
Mr Phillips explained that with a crowd rapidly gathering to find out what all the commotion was about, and expressing their support for the photographers, the wardens had finally retreated and disappeared back into their offices in Liverpool Terrace.
He added: "It took a while afterwards for the seriousness of all this to sink in. How can it be against the law to take photographs in Worthing town centre? Where would that leave our tourism industry or our local media, let alone everyone else's basic freedoms?"
"There are so many questions that this incident raises. What sort of powers do these new wardens have, for a start? And what sort of qualifications or legal training? Are they supposed to use physical force?
"If they are trying to use powers they don't have in order to enforce a law that doesn't exist, then what is the council going to do about it? Will it be taking disciplinary action against those involved?
"We are demanding at the very least a public apology and a clear statement that it is perfectly legal to take photographs in public places in Worthing. Otherwise we are going to look at ways of taking this further."
The video of the incident can be found online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeTIv9UkY8c and
Photographs have been posted at: www.flickr.com/photos/99953214@N00/