Photographer takes risks for pics at peace rally

Those whose vocation depends on being on the front lines become accustomed to difficult and dangerous situations. Nothing instigates conflict like a war. When the media becomes involved the individual associated with the press must be adventurous and courageous when accepting assignments with exotic locations or tumultuous settings because what will await them is dangerous.

Photographers like Philip McMaster know from experience that capturing great images requires bravery because pictures from the sidelines are a dime a dozen. McMaster, a Concordia University graduate in applied human sciences and teacher at Dawson College’s Centre for Imaging Arts and Information Technologies for courses like Event, Sports and Adventure Photography (ESA), is a freelance photographer who covers various parades, protests and events.

“I covered the Stanley Cup riot in 1994 for La Presse so I know the risks,” he says. On Saturday McMaster, who has founded organizations like Cool to be Canadian, was back on the scene again for the peace protests, which took place on Rene Levesque Street marching towards the U.S. Consulate.

McMaster was in the middle of the action between protesters and riot police attempting to capture the emotion and sentiment from being sandwiched between conflicting parties.

“The whole concept of ESA photography is about attitude and mindset; to get up close and passionate photos, to get involved and to capture the right image at the right time,” adds McMaster. “You can’t get the same image as you would when you can actually see the expression on a person’s face.”

There were hundreds of thousands demonstrations throughout the world to march in opposition to the US / British lead strikes on Iraq this weekend. In Montreal the rally did not keep the peace as demonstrators threw mud, sticks, ice and rocks to riot police who were positioned near the American Embassy. Their message was to stop the bombings in Iraq, which are causing the many civilian casualties.

When situations get violent and out of hand, those in charge of keeping civility within large numbers of people may not take the time to differentiate between violent protesters and others at a rally who have different purposes for attending.

McMaster who, although was not participating in the violence, became targeted by police because his presence was perceived to apparently pose a threat.

“I was discussing good photo composition and demonstrating photographer positioning with a one of my ESA students at the rally,” says McMaster. As the protesters became rowdier he was thrust into the front of the rally and then directly faced riot police. This began what was a misfortunate series of events.

“I dropped my umbrella and before I had the chance to retreive it, the police kicked it behind their lines. They refused to return it,” he adds. When McMaster pointing to where it was and adamantly asked for it back, riot police grabbed his arm and used brutal force to take down his six-foot-one athletic frame.

“There is no question that I didn’t pose a threat to [the police] but they chose to pull me through the police line and beat on me, knock me down and tear up my knee, causing a great deal of pain in both ears by pressing their knuckles under the earlobes,” he adds.

He was arrested subsequently with eight others who were also on the front lines. According to Lynne Labelle of the media relations office for the MUC Police, nine people were arrested for illegal assembly and three of the nine were charged with resisting arrest. “Intervention teams were on the scene and two police officers were injured.”

Olivier D’Amours, who accompanied McMaster in the patty wagon after the rally, holds that those arrested were demonstrating quietly. “We were arrested because we were scapegoats for those behind us who were too far out of reach and were throwing objects at the police,” says the second year Universit


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