Hail to the thief and bug the photographer

[Note: Please excuse the poor photos in this entry. I have completely failed to capture what was happening, but its rather hard when you are dragged around by six police officers.  I have tried my best to have ANY shot in these circumstances – Mal]

I don’t go looking for troubles. They usually find me. And they catch up with me in all sort of bizarre places, even if I go out of the office for an hour during my lunch break.

All I wanted was some peace and quiet (that’s our family credo because we never seem to get some!). It turned out to be chasing, running and risking arrest.

I should have known something was up when I left the office. I forgot the camera. It is very rarely that I go anywhere without it. It is a bad sign actually, I wanted to turn back but convinced myself that I was just leaving for a coffee and I would be back in no time. Plus what could go wrong on the Sliema strand full of coffee shops and lazy Italian tourists.

It was ten to 15:00 and we just paid our bill.  Suddenly a man in a red shirt started fighting with a group of taxi drivers just meters away from our table. They tried to get hold of him but he was like a wild animal- twisting punching, kicking and biting. A group of six men could not hold him down. He broke out finally and raced down the street, shirtless. His red shirt was now a piece of cloth lying on the street. Another man came running – he was a security guard dressed in white. He started to speak with the drivers and then continued his pursue of the shirtless man.

Police speaking to the taxi drivers

I went over to taxi drivers to ask what happened. They were confused. Said a man came running and asked for a taxi. Once in the car, he changed his mind, got out and started to kick the car. The drivers went to prevent him doing any damage; this is when the brawl started. My friend in the meantime, acting like a professional journalist, went to interview the waitress. She was told the rest of the story. Apparently the man in red shirt stole some things from a Zara shop nearby. He ran away from a guard who spotted him. He tried to escape in a taxi but then changed his mind.

Police officer came and spoke to the taxi drivers. The red shirt and other items dropped by the escaped man hanged from iron construction next to the taxi drivers post. The drivers were agitated. I was pretty much upset that I didn’t have my Canon, but took mobile phone and snapped some photos. Then out of nowhere the security guard in white uniform came back shouting for the police officer that the escaped man was in underground parking just meters away. They both sprinted and I followed in seconds hoping that I would get a shot of the thief being arrested, since I completely missed to document the fight with the taxi drivers. I ran after the police  and the security guard with my mobile phone ready into the garage to see how they both searched in vain for the man. He was nowhere to be found.

Another call came up that the shirtless man was seen up the street next to Tower Supermarket car-park. Just outside of my office. I turned around and ran again after the police officer and the guard.

When I arrived at the Tower Supermarket there was a huge crowd of passers -by and a few police cars. Six officers marched back and front talking to supermarket security. How quickly it escalated into a real size -chase. I snapped some more photos with my phone and went to the office (climbing three stories) to get my camera. I entered the office panting and running silently for the gear. My colleagues are now pretty comfortable with that. They have seen me doing that at least dozens of time. My manager didn’t even finch as well. Malicia was on the chase and it was pointless to stop her.

Police cars in front of my office building

I came down and started to shot with my Canon. I kept my distance; I was about 30-40 meters away from the police blocking the car park entrance and on the side so I didn’t disturb anybody. I know where to stand and where to shot.

By standers gathering around the police to observe what was going on

Officers going into Tower Super-market

Yet it seemed that the thief ran out again and the officers were looking for somebody to get their anger out. And there was a girl 5`2 with a Canon camera. Just the right target. I managed to take maybe 15 frames in all when it started. One of the police officers was especially blunt telling me that if I didn’t stop taking photos, he would get me arrested. The usual set of excuses followed: you can’t take pictures of the police, you are not media, and you are not licensed journalist. We will take your memory card away. I tried to politely explain that I was in the open, public place that I was not disturbing and that I had right to shot as this was something that happened in front of me and I wanted to see this though.

Shot outside my office

People observe police looking for the thief

It only escalated the matter and at some I was dragged away to get my ID card. I marched into the office and loudly informed my manager that I could be arrested for taking photos. I came down and they took my particulars, trying to intimidate me. They called a sergeant and asked if I had the right to be there taking photos. Finally I was told I was no menace to them, that I was in the right but should have shot in secret – so I don’t have troubles. I should also apply for a license to photograph police because I may take photos to embarrass them. And best of all mobile phones were allowed, Canon cameras not.

Police officers trying their best to intimidate me

I tried to explain that my old Canon took worse photos than a smart phone and if I had one Id shot on digital zoom and it would be on YouTube in seconds. But police officer I spoke to had no idea about technical issues and tried to turn the whole case around that I was the trouble – maker and I was causing them issues. Yes standing on the side walk meters away from them. I was also asked “Why do you risk being arrested for a bunch of photos”. I replied that it was what photographers were doing. The police officer replied “She has balls” and let me go. Soon after that they just folded the whole thing and drove away.

A photo you take when they drag you away

My friend found me and told me that during the entire 30 minutes when they were trying to intimidate me, many cars went out unchecked form the car park. The person they wanted to catch was possibly in one of the cars, hidden. But they already had somebody to punch around.

After the police cars were gone, I realized that it was raining heavily, my clothes were soaked. I retreated to the office.

The thief remained at large. All was fine as long as a photographer got disturbed.

I know this happens to other photographers as well but it is unnerving.

//Mal

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