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A project by Merijn Royaards & Henrietta Williams for Open City Documentary Festival
On 23rd March 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a Covid-19 lockdown across the UK. At once, London became a city with no people - a ruin in reverse - heavily policed and surveilled. Against the backdrop of this empty chaos, the government rushed through the Coronavirus Act 2020, a bill that introduced emergency powers – a radical suspension of the basic rights of the citizen, including the right to protest. After almost 100 days of lockdown the Black Lives Matter protests erupted onto the streets, an outpouring of humanity, solidarity, and emotion, banned by the Home Secretary. The surveillant gaze of the police helicopter logged all of this, the empty and the full.
This surge in surveillance and blocking of protest is Giorgio Agamben’s state of exception in action, a moment of transmissible fear that allows governments to argue for a radical suspension of basic rights of the citizen. As the helicopters thrum, and we see each other’s bodies as the threat, we need to feel concern and to remember this
moment. Let us fight against the state of exception becoming the rule.
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