The Corner

British Police Keeping Tabs on Readers of Charlie Hebdo

Per the Guardian, Brits who bought the post-massacre edition of Charlie Hebdo have attracted the interest of the police:

Tongue in cheek, I asked my helpful newsagents to obtain a copy of the edition of Charlie Hebdo issued after the dreadful massacre in Paris, if indeed a copy was ever available in north Wiltshire. To my surprise, a copy arrived last Wednesday week and although the standard of content in no way matches that of the Guardian I will cherish it. However, two days later a member of Her Majesty’s police service visited said newsagent, requesting the names of the four customers who had purchased Charlie Hebdo. So beware, your badges may attract police interest in your customers. 

Alas, this is not a tall tale. The BBC confirms that it happened:

Wiltshire Police confirmed one of its officers visited a newsagent after the Paris attacks, requesting names of the four people who bought the magazine.

In a statement, the force claimed the officer’s motivation had been “purely around enhancing public safety”.

That’s not a justification, of course. Like “it’s company policy,” this is a distraction — a means of justifying all and any activity without having to engage with the question at all. The police have subsequently apologized, but in that peculiar way that children who don’t really understand what they have done like to apologize:

Wiltshire Police said the force had undertaken own “assessment of community tensions ” following what happened in France.

“As part of this work, local sector policing teams were asked to be mindful of business premises, in particular newsagents who may be distributing the Charlie Hebdo magazine and to consider that these shops may be vulnerable,” a statement said.

“A police officer visited a local shop and post office in Corsham to make an assessment of community tensions and, if appropriate, encourage the newsagent’s owner to be vigilant.

“During this conversation the officer requested information about subscribers to the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

“Wiltshire Police would like to apologise to the members of public who may be affected by this.”

This will happen again.

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