6th July day the of the Cowley Road Carnival I decided to take my camera along to see if I could get a few interesting pictures of the event.
I took a few shots of various things that took my interest and then met up with Councillor Nuala Young and Cllr. Matt Morton who were on the Green party stall on the green at Manzil Way. Cllr. Young mentioned to me that she had earlier seen a rather scary looking man clad in black leather guarding the door at the East Oxford Community Centre and that she had felt a little intimidated by his appearance. I commented that he was probably working for her Green colleague Councillor Mary-Jane Sareva and that in my opinion the Green Party needed to sack her because she was obsessed by security.
I then went around the carnival and took a few more pictures had a snack and some coffee and ended up outside the East Oxford Community Centre. I intended to call in to the Oxford Action Resources Centre which is based at the Community Centre to see who was there and meet up with a few people.
As I approached the entrance in Princes Street I saw tall man clad in a black leather jacket at the porch. He looked like a Blackshirt from the 1930s and he was holding some kind of short black oblong bat-like object in his hand which he was slapping against his thigh. I observed him for a couple of minutes and saw that he was stopping people as they were going into the Community Centre and looking in their bags as well as passing this black object over bags and people's bodies.
I then remembered my conversation earlier at the Green Party stall and thought that this character must be the person who Cllr.Young had been referring to. So I decided to watch his behaviour in dealing with people as they entered the building. He seemed rather unfriendly and curt in his manner as he gave commands to people “open your bag”, “wait”, “you can't bring beer in” etc.
I then approached this leather clad door supervisor and politely asked about the object in his hand. He told me it was a scanner that could detect “knives” and other “weapons”. I asked him if he had discovered anyone carrying any knives or weapons that day and he told me “no”. Another security guard who had appeared next to him said ... “ah yes but you never know”.
I then walked a few yards away from the entrance and leaned on the handrail near the pavement in order to get a photograph of this man as an interesting and novel kind of door supervisor that I had not seen before at the Community Centre. Suddenly he left his post at the door and walked towards me wagging his finger and said. “If you take any pictures of me I will take your camera”. I backed away and smiled at him and he returned to the doorway. I decided that I would indeed photograph him because he was in a public place performing a public function. So I backed away to the pavement and leaned on the wall of the Community Centre. At this he became very camera shy and started twitching and turning his face and then he went inside the building.
I then decided to abandon the whole thing and go into the building as I had originally intended. The man then stopped me and demanded to look into my shoulder bag and I agreed that he could, but at that point Cllr Mary-Jane Sareva emerged from the building wearing a security uniform and fingerless black leather gloves. She told me that I was not allowed inside because I had attempted to photograph the door supervisor. She added that if I photographed her she would sue me.
At this point I walked away and met a number of people going into the Community Centre to OARC who asked me what was going on. I said that I had been banned from entering the building by Cllr. Mary-Jane Sareva because I had attempted to photograph the door supervisor. They thought this was ridiculous and one got out his video camera and another went to speak with the door supervisor and Cllr Mary-Jane Sareva. There was then some kind of melee at the door which I did not see and shortly after two police cars and a group of what I thought looked like thuggish looking private security people appeared in Princes Street. I asked one of the uniformed police officers who was standing in the road if it was alright to take pictures. He shrugged and replied that it was a free country. So I got out my camera again and tried to take a picture of the group of private security people who had appeared in the road. At which point one of these men approached me and said that I should not take photographs. I pointed to the police officer I had just spoken with and said “Well I just asked that police officer over there if I can take pictures and he said it is a free country”. The security guard replied “no it is not, it is not a free country, you can't do that”.
I did not see much more but later heard that there had been a scuffle at the door of the community centre and that the black leather clad door keeper had attempted to take someone's camera and that another door keeper had said “I will kill you” to another person. I heard that two people were arrested briefly by the police and then let go, in order to placate Cllr Mary-Jane Sareva.
I then went up to the Carling Academy and took pictures of the door supervisors there. They did not even notice me. Later I went to the Regal and took pictures of the door supervisors there. They did not react either except one said to me that if I had told them before they would have “posed with smiles”.
I am happy that the pictures have been published Indymedia.
Any views on this ? If so please Email us at the East Oxford Community Centre Action Group firstname.lastname@example.org