‘Threatening’: Lloyd Berks with the offending T-shirt, which he was forced to cover up after airport staff initially asked him to turn it inside out
By Kate Loveys
A father on a family holiday was told to hide his T-shirt because airport security staff claimed the slogan it bore was an incitement to terrorism.
Lloyd Berks arrived at Gatwick Airport wearing a trendy white Levi Strauss T-shirt sporting the phrase ‘Freedom or Death’ in turquoise lettering.
Beneath the slogan is a picture of a skeleton dressed in armour.
The Gothic imagery is common on the high street and has been used by designers such as Alexander McQueen and artist Damien Hirst.
But security officers decided it was ‘threatening’ and told the father of two, who was travelling with his partner and two young children, to turn the T-shirt inside out.
The embarrassed 38-year-old soccer coach obliged, opting to cover the garment with a cardigan.
But he has accused the airport of being over-zealous and attacking civil liberties.
Mr Berks, who was flying to Salzburg with Thomson Airways for a skiing holiday, was stopped at a security checkpoint by Gatwick staff.
‘First they told me take my shoes off and checked my wallet, which is understandable,’ he said.
‘Then they said airlines might be worried by my T-shirt because its “threatening”.
‘I thought they were joking at first. I was with my family. I was hardly a terrorist risk.
‘And the T-shirt is trendy, not an incitement to terrorism. I’ve never heard of anything more ridiculous.
‘It’s an attack on people’s civil liberties. What has happened to common sense? Have people forgotten how to use it?’
Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, said it was yet another example of how paranoid we have been made by terrorism.
‘This is a sad example of the terrorism paranoia which increasingly affects every part of public life.
‘T-shirt slogans do not imply malicious intent and the pathetic security officers should have known better.
‘After the intrusion and embarrassment of bodyscanning, one wonders how much more difficult airports can make leaving the country.’
The incident happened on February 27 as Mr Berks, from Bexley in Kent, travelled with his partner Donna Nicholls, 38, an IT specialist, and their children Callum, six, and Kaydee, four.
A spokeswoman for Gatwick Airport has since apologised. She denied the airport had a policy on T-shirt slogans.
She said: ‘London Gatwick does not apply a policy relating to appropriate or inappropriate T-shirt slogans worn by passengers passing through airport security.
‘While safety and security are our highest priorities, we also expect staff to apply common sense and judgment.
‘The reported incident sounds unnecessary. We would apologise to the passenger for any inconvenience or embarrassment caused.’