Bilderberg: One mention of Sylvester McCoy and it all kicks off
Charlie Skelton is menaced by police with guns (and mirrors on sticks) in his third dispatch from (near) the Bilderberg summit of the global elite
Reach Charlie Skelton's first and second Bilderberg dispatcheshttp://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/13/in-search-of-bilderberghttp://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/13/bilderberg-rich-cabal
'No fotografia' - the snap of a bemulleted Greek copper that landed Charlie Skelton in police custody at Bilderberg. Photograph: Charlie Skelton/Guardian
You know your day's gone badly when it ends with you being shouted at in a Greek police station.
It wasn't meant to end this way. I'd gone for a gentle sunset walk, up by the Bilderberg hotel, to relax before the big opening day of the elite globalist shindig, watch Phoebus plunge headlong into the western sea, and (yes) maybe sneak a couple of short-lens pictures of the mounting security.
Opposite the hotel gates I took a casual photo out over the bay, limbering up to swivel round and snap off some naturalistic "armed guard having fag and chatting up policewoman" sort of shots. A plainclothes officer jogged across the road and got in my face.
"Of the sea?"
"Give me your camera."
"I don't understand."
"I've got my Oyster card".
He takes my licence. A group of policemen have sauntered over, and mutter Greekly about the enormous threat to the smooth running of Bilderberg I seem to represent.
"What is this?" asks one of the local militia. He takes my notebook. Opens it at random.
"What are you writing? What here?"
He points to an old 8 Out of 10 Cats joke (well, barely) about what would happen if we had a female Doctor Who. He jabs at it, proof, in black and white, of my status as an agitator. I read it out: "I'm not saying we've already had a female Doctor Who, but Sylvester McCoy put cracks in the glass ceiling."
"Who is this? Syl... Syl..."
"A friend of yours? He is staying here?"
I bite back telling them that Sylvester McCoy is a noted anti-globalist freedom fighter who is here to lead the people's revolt against Bilderberg's liberty-stripping agenda. "It's nothing. Can I have my book back?"
They confer. An imp in my brain tells my hand to reach for my camera and take a photo. Click. Whir. At which point, on a gorgeous May evening on the Athens Riviera, began one of the more stressful hours of my life. Hands went to holsters.
"HE TAKE FOTOGRAFIA!"
Over came the man with the machine gun. Over came the man with the special mirror-on-a-stick for car bombs. It was the first time in my life, and hopefully the last, that I've been intimidated by a mirror on a stick. They circled round me. One of them, the one in the photo with one hand up and the other on his pistol, kept prodding me in the shoulder, and shouting: "Give the camera! Just give the camera!"
All around me: "Delete! Delete photos!" followed by a lame tug of war for the camera with no great self-belief on either side, which I won. Camera back in pocket.
Then it became: "Get in the car!" Get in the car!" I wasn't about to get in the car. I remember saying: "One of you has a machine gun, you're shouting at me, I don't understand why, I took one photograph, this all seems a bit strange. What's going on here?"
One of the nicer policemen, who looked a bit like the short guy from LA Law, the one married to Jill Eikenberry (note to self, update this reference), took me aside. "Very important people coming. Very important. No photograph. Please get in car, we take details, put in computer, you can go."
I complained, reasonably I think, that they could simply phone my details through to the station, and check that I wasn't wanted on three continents for acts of terror, but they were having none of it. Prod, prod, prod. Eventually I got in the car. I had to.
They drove me to the police station. Other cars followed. At the station, officers gathered from all quarters. They'd sniffed an incident. A dozen of them stood round me. The Greek chorus reached full voice: "Give the camera! Delete photos! You understand?!" I hated my hands for trembling when I wrote down my father's name so they could look me up on "computer". But at least I got a chuckle hearing them try and pronounce Melvyn.
One of the policewomen smiled. "Delete photos and you can go, no trouble." She looked like Christina Aguilera's slightly butch cousin and I fell on her smile with a thirst. Nearly gave her the camera. Understood in a flash the whole good cop, bad cop thing. Kept my camera in my pocket. Smiled back. "I just want you to tell me if I've broken the law, and if so, are you arresting me?" God, I sound like a cliché of a protester. Oh god, I'm a protester. What are my rights here?
"Charge me or release me!" is what I didn't shout. I sat quietly and tried to still my hands in my lap. I smiled at Christina. I was winning.
Suddenly, a "you can go" from the sergeant at the computer. I went. I had my camera. I had my photo. I was free. It was the end of Midnight Express. The Breakfast Club fist in the air. Except that I felt sick and wanted to go to sleep.
I slept. This morning, feeling stronger after a slice of breakfast cake, I think I understand: I was the trouble kicking off. I was the agitation they'd been warned about. Very important people. No mistakes. They were wired, pumped up for confrontation, and my photo had been the spark. It's why they'd blown up in my face. Important people arriving. No fotografia.
And then it struck me: there really ISN'T any fotografia. There's none. Not a single member of the mainstream press. Not a single newshound camera on a tripod. Nothing. Nothing is happening here. Nothing to report.
The limousines have started to arrive. Nothing to report.
They've closed off an entire peninsula. There are roadblocks. Machine guns. Nothing to report.
This is Bilderberg's 57th annual meeting. Nothing to report.
Susan Boyle plucks eyebrows! Finally, something to report.
Charlie Skelton will be filing regular updates from Athens – even though he has been warned and may not be so lucky next time.http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/14/bilderberg-charlie-skelton-dispatch