Left: Sandro Camilleri with PC Joseph Mangion, Right: PC Joseph Mangion with Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi
The police officers’ union has defended an officer who took photos of activists at a recent protest in front of Castille and physically blocked a photographer from filming them.
“I’d like to show solidarity with constable Joseph Mangion who was recently unjustly criticised in certain sections of the media after he did his job as he was supposed to,” Inspector Sandro Camilleri wrote on Facebook. “Constable Mangion is a very amicable man with whom many people sympathise. Take courage, Joseph. The police officers’ union is behind you.”
The three activists, from protest group Il-Kenniesa, convened in Castille Square last Saturday to erect cardboard cutouts of Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri in prison jumpsuits and handcuffs and of a half-naked Economy Minister Chris Cardona.
Castille Square is a public place and, as they were fewer than ten protestors, they had no need to apply for a police permit.
According to the activists, they had informed the policeman who was on guard at Castille that they were about to protest but the policeman told them they weren’t allowed to do so. The activists insisted they weren’t breaking the law and the policeman told them to get on with the protest and leave, but he then took photos of them with his phone as they were setting up. The activists questioned why he was taking photos of them but the policeman ignored them and moved closer to take close-up photos of their faces.
He then blocked the camera of Reuters photographer Darrin Zammit Lupi, who told him he was just doing his job. The policeman’s response to this was apparently: “I’m a respectable policeman and very popular on Facebook”.
Four other policemen were called on site and, while they didn’t take any action against the activists, they did ask them for their details – a request the activists complied to but questioned.
According to both the activists and Zammit Lupi, the response of one of the police officers was that they needed their details to protect them “just in case something happens, such as if someone had to rape you”.
In response to Sandro Camilleri’s Facebook post, Il-Kenniesa said that Mangion’s intimidation of activists and journalists was in breach of the right to freedom of expression, association and privacy as enshrined in the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights.
“The police should protect people and not the corrupt,” the group said.