Footage © Yannis Mendez
While covering a vigil for a recent acid attack in East London on Wednesday 5 July, Yannis Mendez, a Freelance Video Journalist and member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) found himself surrounded by security officers as he filmed from the front steps leading up to the shopping centre (see above video).
“Within seconds I was surrounded by five Westfield security guards telling me I couldn’t film there, I was on private property,” Said Mendez.
“One put his hand on my camera and told me not to film him, despite him then filming me on his seriously inferior camcorder.”
He was then described as a “difficult male” by one guard reporting back to his superiors after Mendez turned his camera on himself to show he was surrounded by five security guards.
He continued to argue his case to film, pointing out all the people with mobile phone cameras. Eventually the boss of the security guards intervened, told the guards to stand down and allow Mendez to get his shot from the steps.
A police officer later confirmed the steps and bridge at Westfield were on top of public land. That route is the only public thoroughfare to get from one side of Stratford to the other without having to take a long detour.
In August 2016 former London Mayor Ken Livingstone faced similar trouble when he and an accompanying Dutch film crew refused to stop filming at the request of Westfield Stratford security officers. The security then called the police, who got more than they bargained for from Livingstone.
“When we gave permission for this to be built [Stratford Westfield], this is a public thoroughfare that allows the people to get from the old Stratford site through to the Olympic Park,” Livingstone said on film.
“We were not told that there would be bars on people, you know, going through or filming or anything else like that. Everybody here, about half of them want a picture of me as a selfie. Is Westfield going to object to that as well?”
The more we see land being taken over by private interest the more we see our basic rights being stripped from those privatised public spaces and thoroughfares. We call upon our new mayor Sadiq Khan; instruct Westfield to honour the original access agreement. The public and press should not have to leave their rights to freely film and photograph at the bottom step of Westfield’s public thoroughfare, or have to face the intimidation and threats from ill-informed security.