I was in Seville, in a major city square where I saw the two, uniformed, armed policemen on little mopeds. I smiled at them & they smiled back until took out my little pocket camera. Then there's hands went up and they moved toward me gesturing to put the camera away. I complied.
I had a similar experience at the Rome Airport when I tried to photograph a heavily armed soldier smoking a cigarette outside security.
I would later find out that both countries had passed laws against taking pictures of law of officers and the military after very serious acts of terrorism had occurred. The thought of censorship in democracies had crossed my mind, but terrorism has certainly caused my own country to pass disturbing laws in the name of democracy that restricted some people's freedom.
Perhaps the laws are necessary. I have personal doubts. But those who know more about the tools that lead to machine gun fire in Italian Airports and bombs in Spanish planes and jets smashing into high-rise buildings are supposed to know more abut what is required than I do.
But then, the cases of over response in the name of freedom are long and well document. And the use of the camera is an instrument in revealing those abuses are even longer, as we have seen during Mumbai and the Iran election; in the record excessive use of force in a BART station on New Years Day this year and in the clubbing of Rodney King in LA back in 1991.
The camera has shown the truth when authorities entrusted to protect the public were in fact deceiving the public.
I write all this because the British have passed and are attempting to defend one of the most abusive and discriminatory laws I have heard of since maybe the Stamp Act in the time of the American Revolution.
It seems that in the name of freedom countries sometimes do the lamest things, as the US has so recently done in the case of Guantanamo. The British law is being explained by authorities as not being applicable to innocent tourists but will applied to people who appear as though they might be terrorist.
I assume that means white people in Western clothing can take pictures. Darker people in Eastern--or mid-Eastern-garb may be subject to arrest, interrogation or the mere confiscation of their cameras.
I really shouldn't have to tell you what's wrong with that. British citizen of all hues and clothing tastes shouldn't have to fight against such appalling, subjective discrimination.
And in the name of fighting for freedom, freedom itself should not be so easily tromped upon by any government claiming to be a democracy.
[NOTE: I am running late to make a plane and I have not added quite a few pictures and links that may be useful when I get a chance. I assume it is still legal for me to post the pictures.]