The Accidental Tourist: Art Student Arrested in London for Photographing “Iconic Sites” as Terrorist Threat

Italian student Simona Bonomo has become the latest tourist to be nabbed in England for taking pictures of historic or “iconic” landmarks. Police community support officers (PCSOs) stopped Bonomo under anti-terrorism after she took pictures of buildings and arrested her under anti-terrorism laws. She was held in a jail cell and later released after paying a fine.

Bonomo, 32, is an art student at London Metropolitan University at London Metropolitan University and recorded her encounter with police. When confronted, she explained that she was filming “just for fun”. The officer replied: “You like looking at those buildings do you? You’re basically filming for fun? I don’t believe you.” The officer demanded to look at the pictures, which Bonomo refused to allow. He then responded “I can have a look if I want to, if I think it may be linked to terrorism. This is an iconic site.”

The encounter highlights the problem with the law with ironic iconic sites. Tourists are most likely to photograph “iconic sites.” However in doing so, police treat it as evidence that they are possibly terrorists and take away the cameras. If you thought that the solution is to only photograph non-historic sites like Fish and Chips restaurants, think again (here).

These laws are reminiscent of TSA confiscating tweezers and nail clippers for years as a terrorist threat on airplanes. Terrorists could just as easily use GoogleEarth to map out target areas.

For the full story, click here.

14 thoughts on “The Accidental Tourist: Art Student Arrested in London for Photographing “Iconic Sites” as Terrorist Threat”

  1. It’s not just in England. A journalist named Carlos Miller runs an excellent blog called “Photography is not a Crime.” Daily stories of harassment to make you shake your head in disbelief.

  2. The video in the linked article is chilling. This is a bully in action and nothing more. I found the below link during a search to see just what a Police Community Support Officer is. Their sort of 1 level below a regular police officer and they don’t have police powers. The British also have an all volunteer, unpaid Special Constable unit. There seems to be a lot of people in uniforms that aren’t Police- that just work for the Police- that get to push other people around in Britain.

  3. Soon the English will be arresting everyone, so it’s kind of a moot point, isn’t it?

  4. As an architect, if I was planning on damaging a building, I would probably draw sketches of the building more than take photographs – how you draw “filters” certain information, while a photograph simply records how something reflects light. I wonder how often these pathetic maniacs harass people who are putting pen/pencil to paper around the “iconic” structures?

    Have these geniuses ever done a google image search on these “iconic” structures – there are tens of thousands of images of these buildings and sites already on the web. If one wanted to mess with them, you could stand with your smart phone making a show of aiming the phone’s camera at the “sensitive” structure. When the dolts come over to pester you and demand to “see the photos you’ve been taking”, you show them that you haven’t taken any photos, but rather have been browsing the numerous photos of the building already on the web….

  5. “Terrorists could just as easily use GoogleEarth”
    Don’t say that they’ll get rid of Goggle Erath.

  6. And those same items can be purchased at the Airport Store after you go thorough security. Try it, and see.

  7. mespo:

    I thought the same thing. It could have been the Professor’s wit in action, and I debated whether to post it or not.

  8. nal:

    On your correction, personally, I think it “ironic” that the student would be arrested for photographing the “iconic” symbols of freedom.

  9. I thought I read that this police policy of treating photographers as suspect terrorists was to have been reversed in the UK according to The Independent on December 5.

    Police forces across the country have been warned to stop using anti-terror laws to question and search innocent photographers after The Independent forced senior officers to admit that the controversial legislation is being widely misused.

    The strongly worded warning was circulated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) last night. In an email sent to the chief constables of England and Wales’s 43 police forces, officers were advised that Section 44 powers should not be used unnecessarily against photographers. The message says: “Officers and community support officers are reminded that we should not be stopping and searching people for taking photos. Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether from the casual tourist or professional, is unacceptable.”

  10. “paranoia strikes deep
    into your heart it will creep
    starts when you’re always afraid
    step out of line the man comes
    and takes you away”
    (Buffalo Springfield)

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