Journalists covering Just Stop Oil protest ‘arrested and held for 13 hours’

‘I don’t want to be intimidated by it. But at the same time, it’s extremely concerning,’ filmmaker says

Zoe Tidman
Tuesday 08 November 2022 18:58 GMT
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Filmmaker and photographer arrested while covering Just Stop Oil protest

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A journalist covering Just Stop Oil protests on the M25 has claimed he was arrested along with a photographer and held for 13 hours in a police station.

Rich Felgate, who is making a documentary about the climate group, said he was handcuffed and taken away by officers while filming the action on a public footbridge in Hertfordshire on Monday.

Photographer Tom Bowles said he was also arrested and claimed police searched his house while he was in custody.

The British Press Photographers Association (BPPA) said it “strongly condemns” the arrest of two of its members.

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Mr Felgate told The Independent he was filming a Just Stop Oil protester who had climbed onto a gantry over the M25 on Monday when he was approached by police.

“Where I was on the bridge was public. Lots of people walking their dogs. It was totally separate from where the protest was happening,” the 30-year-old from London said.

He said police approached him and Mr Bowles and handcuffed them without asking them what they were doing there or asking to see their press cards.

Rich Felgate says he was arrested and held for around 13 hours after covering a Just Stop Oil protest
Rich Felgate says he was arrested and held for around 13 hours after covering a Just Stop Oil protest (Supplied)

“It is a public place so you don’t have to be a member of the press to be there anyway,” documentary maker Mr Felgate, who is not a member of Just Stop Oil, said.

He claimed officers said the pair were being arrested for conspiring to commit a public nuisance.

Mr Felgate said the pair were taken away in a police van and held for around 13 hours. “During that time, the police were really, really questioning about our press credentials, having a lot of suspicion about both of us being protesters rather than press,” he said.

Just Stop Oil disrupted the M25 by climbing on gantries for a second day
Just Stop Oil disrupted the M25 by climbing on gantries for a second day (PA)
Roads were closed during the M25 protest (Just Stop Oil/PA)
Roads were closed during the M25 protest (Just Stop Oil/PA) (PA Media)

They even asked for the pin number to his phone, he claimed.

Mr Bowles captured the moment they were arrested on his camera and shared it on Twitter.

Mr Felgate said he was concerned about what happened but it would not stop him from doing his job.

“I’ll keep going and filming because it’s what I do and it’s important. I think the rights of journalists are not given to us, we have to protect them. Stand up against threats like this,” he said.

“I don’t want to be intimidated by it. But at the same time, it’s extremely concerning. I don’t know the next time I’ll film a Just Stop Oil protest, whether I’m going get arrested again, whether my footage is going to get seized.”

The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union, of which Mr Felgate is a member, said: “Press, film crew and journalists should be able to cover public protests without fear of being harassed or arrested. We’ll provide support to members where it’s requested.”

The BBPA said it “strongly condemns the arrests of two photographers”, adding: “News gatherers should be able to operate freely without fear of arrest.”

Hertfordshire Police has been approached for comment.

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