46 years journalist arrested after taking photos in protest of asylum seeker in Kent
Written by: Independent
A freelance journalist has been arrested after taking and sharing photographs of activists protesting of a controversial military camp
Kathmandu: A reputed freelance journalist has been arrested after taking and sharing photographs of activists protesting against the conditions in a controversial military camp housing hundreds of asylum seekers in Kent.
Freelance photographer Andy Aitchison, 46, attended a demonstration outside Napier Barracks, in Folkestone, on Thursday morning and took photos as protesters threw buckets of fake blood at the gates of the site. The images were later used in local press reports and international news.
Mr Aitchison said he felt he had been ‘censored’ for ‘shining a light’ on the poor conditions at the military site
The protest, which saw demonstrators holding signs reading: “Close Napier now” and “There will be blood on your hands”, came in response to mounting concerns about poor living conditions in the barracks where more than 100 people have contracted coronavirus in the last two weeks is reported in independent.
On Friday afternoon a fire broke out at the site, which has been used to house around 400 asylum seekers since September, prompting renewed calls for the camp to be closed. The cause of the fire is as yet unknown.
More than six hours after the demonstration on Thursday, five police officers arrived at the home of Mr. Aitchison, who has worked as a photographer for 26 years and arrested him.
They seized his mobile phone and the memory card from his camera and instructed him to accompany them to the local police station.
The photographer, who had never been arrested before, was held in a police cell for over five hours before being charged with criminal damage of a dwelling. He was released on bail at around 10 pm.
Mr. Aitchison has been granted bail until 22 February and has been instructed not to attend Napier Barracks until the case has been concluded.
Police also arrested one of the protesters, a 36-year-old man, at the scene of the demonstration. He was charged with the same offense and has also been released on bail until 22 February.
A spokesperson for Kent Police confirmed that the force was called following a report of a protest in Shorncliffe, Folkestone, at around 8 am on Thursday and that a 36-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage, and that “further inquiries” led to a second man being arrested at around 3 pm the same day.
A Home Office spokesperson did not address Mr. Aitchison's case but said the vandalism was “completely unacceptable and those found breaching lockdown restrictions will be fined”. Work as a journalist or photographer is deemed a “reasonable excuse” for leaving home, under the Health Protection Regulations.
On asylum seekers’ concerns over their health and safety, the department said it was “offensive” to suggest that the sites were “not good enough for asylum claimants”.