A couple of days ago someone brought the following clip to our attention on Twitter:
The other week journalist @MikeSegalov got hassled and shouted at by the police for filming an incident in a park. Here's the footage. Not a good look for the police – breaking social distancing rules by surrounding him and wrongly shouting at a journalist to go home. pic.twitter.com/BKXSXbE6Gm
— Great Editor (@simonchilds13) April 16, 2020
From the tannoy declarations of “you in the blue, go home”, to the haranguing tone, to the declarations the journalist is “killing people”, it’s all pretty disturbing.
And this is far from an isolated incident.
There was the case of the man being told he could not play with his children in his own front garden.
And the man who had his door kicked in, allegedly after his neighbours reported an incident (it has never been confirmed exactly what happened).
There is the famous incident of the drone footage of people walking their dogs in the countryside, miles from other people, but nonetheless deemed to be breaking the law (although the Home Office later confirmed there is no law against driving into the countryside to exercise).
The chief constable of Northhamptonshire Police even stated that his officers would soon be searching people’s shopping bags to ensure they were only buying “essential items” (although the reaction to his statement was so strong, he did backtrack it fairly quickly).
Clearly these clips are all brief, and sometimes lacking a broader context, but they create a general picture that is quite disturbing. You combine this with the new laws, and you get what former Supreme Court Justice, Lord Sumption, called “a hysterical slide into a police state” and an “irrational response driven by fear”.
Police officers are not immune to groupthink, panic or hysteria and the tone of the press and political discourse could easily create a Crucible-like atmosphere that puts both journalists, and ordinary members of the public, in serious danger.