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Tower Hamlets council halts its meeting when OAP is spotted filming it

PUBLISHED: 09:36 27 June 2013 | UPDATED: 09:36 27 June 2013

A row with security guards erupted when a disabled pensioner caught filming Tower Hamlets council’s open meeting on his pocket camera at the Town Hall last night was ordered to stop.

Police were being called when John Wright, 71, refused to stop recording.

He was told by the council Speaker to switch off—or be thrown out.

The 71-year-old Alzheimer’s Ambassador for Tower Hamlets refused to budge or turn off his device, protesting that the council was being undemocratic preventing him recording proceedings for his disabled neighbours at Shadwell who were unable to get to the Town Hall.

John, who had organised a Big Lunch street party on Shadwell’s Glamis Estate earlier this month to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation, argued that Parliament and the London Assembly were videoed, while Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was pressing local authorities to follow.

The Council Speaker adjourned the meeting for 20 minutes because of the protest.

He told the press during the break: “Until police move me, I’m staying put. I’m filming because the people ought to know what’s going on—if you’re housebound like me, you can’t get to council meetings.”

A council enforcement officer asked him to leave, but the protesting pensioner realising he was not a policeman continued his protest.

The officer asked on his radio for police back-up.

The meeting resumed when the Speaker asked John to stop filming.

He had already put away his pocket camera, he told her, to laughter in the public gallery. No police turned up.

Regulations brought in last year on filming and access to local authorities do not apply to full council meetings, only executive meetings and committees, according a Town Hall statement issued to the press minutes later.

The Speaker confirmed she was keen to move towards filming proceedings, the statement added, but “in a planned manner with proper protocols.”

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