Saturday, June 9, 2007

Photography is not a crime; so why are police hassling people for it ?

I find this topic useful to show how our rights are being abridged on a daily basis.

I am quoting from another blog, the one of Carlos Miller.
" Photography is not a crime; It’s a First Amendment right
June 7th, 2007
Freelance reporter/photographer arrested for asking the wrong question about Rudy Guliani
In an incident that has received absolutely no coverage from the mainstream media, freelance journalist Matt Lepacek was arrested at a New Hampshire press conference Tuesday after asking a Rudy Giuliani staffer about the ex-mayor’s prior knowledge of a collapse of a World Trade Center building.

On this video, Lepacek is surrounded by a sea of reporters when he starts firing off questions to Giuliani pollster Ed Goeas. Seconds later, a group of police officers move in to arrest him as several photographers snapped away. Two days later, the incident has only been reported by a handful of alternative news websites.

Lepacek was on assignment for, a site that has raised some controversial theories about the government’s involvement with 9/11. But he was reportedly carrying CNN credentials at the time of his arrest, insinuating that perhaps he has worked for them in the past.
Lepacek was charged with criminal trespass and there was talk that he would be charged with “espionage” despite the fact that he was holding the camera in full view and that the incident took place after a GOP debate attended by hundreds of photographers.
Luke Rudkowski, another Infowars reporter at the scene, said police physically assaulted him and Lepacek, destroying the camera in the process. "

From Carlos, May blog post, apparently he was hassled for taking pictures, or at least, having a camera...
"May 25th, 2007
A Coral Gables police officer asks me for a permit after I photograph him
I was standing on a sidewalk on Miracle Mile Thursday night carrying my Canon 5D with a 50 mm f/1.8 lens, a combination that works excellent in low light situations.
The officer was across the street standing on one of those motor scooters that police have nowadays that enable them to walk their beat without actually walking their beat.
As the officer was zipping across the street on the scooter, I took a few shots as I think it is hilarious that police have resorted to a child’s toy for law enforcement efficiency.

“Do you have a permit to take photos?” he asked as he reached the sidewalk I was standing on."

But, it is a widespread topic on the Net, i.e., this issue of cops hassling people taking pictures.

Thomas Hawk has an interesting article on his experience, he calls it the Right to Bear Cameras
"Tonight Flickr pals Ropeboy, Aqui-Ali, Ranjit and I all went down to Oakland's warehouse district to shoot. No sooner had we begun than we were stopped and confronted by Sheriffs. They required each of us to turn over our IDs and then proceeded to detain us for about 20 minutes. Admitedly there is a small power plant and trains down in the district but ask yourself this, should carrying a camera result in this kind of harrasment? Should the police be able to randomly stop you and run your ID for warrants or a background check merely for being in the wrong place with a camera? There is a chill in the air in this country right now but I'm not sure that taking it out on the rights of photographers is the correct answer. We were committing no crime and peacefully assembling for the purpose of our passion, photography and it's pursuit in a group that we call Flickr.This particular cop asked that I not take his photograph. I took this shot anyway when he wasn't paying attention. As I understand it, freedom of the press involves the ability to photograph law enforcement and what some might view as an abuse of power."

But, there are lots more blogs talking about this disturbing trend.

Stopped for my 6th time!
Today (9/6/2004 - Labor Day) I was kind of in the wrong place at the wrong time while doing some night photos, but the story is interesting at the same time. I was on the dirt back roads of Laurel Park in Secaucus, NJ and while leaving a Hudson County Police Officer drove up to me and politely said "Parks' closed." As I normally would, I agreed with him and packed up my stuff and walked back towards my car.

Although (which I should have realized anyway) he wasn't done talking to me (because they never are, they always have more to say). He had to come back about 30 seconds later to ask me "Where you taking any pictures back there?". Not to lie or anything, I told him yes. He then started to tell me how those back roads are private property and that I was trespassing (He wasn't yelling at me, more just informing me).

This is what I don't understand. I have been on those back roads plenty of times and sometimes police even came back there to see what I was up to. Although, they always leave me be because I'm open and show them the photography I did and they don't see that I'm causing any harm. Also, there are also no signs stating "Private Property: Keep Out" or "No Public Access". The only sign visible is a yellow diamond saying "End of Pavement".When I told him that I was doing some photography he asked me of what. I told him truthfully that I was photographing the city lights of Newark & New York from the Meadowlands, especially the "Towers of Light", the World Trace Center memorial that is erected around September 11th every year.While talking to him, I noticed a New Jersey Transit off-road police unit drive by and head up the dirt roads I just came out of. The officer said "I don’t think NJT would appreciate you taking photos back there in a vital area. Especially along the Northeast Corridor Train line, because you might be trying to blow the trains up."Bullshit my ass. If I was a terrorist and I wanted to blow something up, I could easily do it without photos. No terrorist attack in the United States has ever relied on photography. "

I COULD POST MORE AND MORE AND MORE...YOU CAN LOOK THE BLOGS UP YOURSELF. In fact, watch the Michael Moore film, FAHRENHEIT 9/11. He and his crew were peacefully filming the Saudi Arabian headquarters in DC from a distance, and while he is narrating, Federal Secret Service officers come up to hassle him about filming.

It is not rocket science why cops are especially aggressive about people filming or photographing them. It is evidence that can be used against them in court when they are found guilty of wrongdoing. People who are doing wrong, or who don't want dirty secrets exposed, can get physcially aggressive, even violent when someone starts filming or photographing them.

Look at the videotaping of the beating which Rodney King received. In that case, even though the video was clearly depicting Mr. King getting the hell beat out of him , due to the venue of the trial (Simi Valley), where lots of cops live, the cops were found not guilty, but without the video, the nation would never be shown first hand evidence of what appeared to be police brutality to most of us (almost everyone NOT living in Simi Valley).

To that point, read this from
"You Thought That Was Police Brutality?
May 29, 2007
Angel Rodriguez says he was videotaping police making a drug arrest from his window in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when he saw what he thought was police brutality. Then, he says, the police spotted him videotaping them. He says several police officers rushed into his home, knocked him to the floor, beat him and tore the videotape out of his camera."

And more
"Friday, July 12th, 2002Police Brutality On Videotape Across the Country: The Videographer Who Captured Footage of Police Beating An Unarmed Teenager in Inglewood Is Arrested; Police Investigate An Oklahoma City Police Beating of Another Unarmed Black ManListen to Segment Download Help Printer-friendly version Email to a friend Purchase Video/CD
Police Thursday arrested Mitch Crooks, the man who videotaped the scene of a white officer smashing the head of a handcuffed black teenager into the trunk of a car. The arrest came on the same day Crooks was supposed to appear before a grand jury. He was approaching CNN for a television interview, when plain-clothed officers drove up to the building and hustled him into a van with tinted windows. A CNN surveillance camera caught the scene on video. It shows Crooks struggling against the officers, screaming for help as the van drove away.
The Los Angeles District Attorney's office says Crooks was arrested on warrants for petty theft and driving under the influence with a hit and run. The DA also served him with a subpoena to testify before the Los Angeles County grand jury. Crooks had been expected to appear before the grand jury Thursday morning but failed to show up.
Crooks had repeatedly told reporters he was afraid officers would be "coming after" him for videotaping the beating of 16-year-old Donovan Jackson Chavis from a nearby motel room. Speaking on a radio program Wednesday Crooks said: "I fear for my life. They're going to kick my ass in a cell and take turns on me, probably." Crooks also told reporters the four officers involved in the beating approached his motel room moments after he shot the video, demanding the tape.
Jeremy Morse, the officer seen beating Donovan Jackson Chavis, has yet to be charged with a crime. He was suspended on Monday with pay. On Thursday, his attorney said the 16-year-old developmentally disabled Jackson took action that "required that he be punched." Morse has been the subject of repeated complaints to the Inglewood Police Department.
Meanwhile, authorities in Oklahoma City asked the FBI to look into the actions of two officers who were videotaped striking an unarmed African American man 27 times with batons. The police also sprayed him with pepper spray. They said they were trying to arrest the man, Donald Pete, for trying to conceal marijuana by swallowing it.
Oklahoma City Police Chief M.T. Berry said the Inglewood incident prompted him to contact the FBI. But he said he does not believe the Oklahoma case rises to the same level of seriousness as the California case.
The Police Chief initially defended the officers, saying they acted correctly while handling the arrest on Monday."

Cameraman Videotaping Police Beating Arrested in California
"The man who shot the amateur video of a white police officer beating a black teenager in suburban Los Angeles was taken into custody Thursday afternoon by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office

The man who shot the amateur video of a white police officer beating a black teenager in suburban Los Angeles was taken into custody Thursday afternoon by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Michael Crooks, 27, was arrested outside CNN's Los Angeles bureau where he was scheduled for an interview.

He was screaming as he was driven away by plainclothes officers, the CNN quoted witnesses as saying. The district attorney's office said Crooks' arrest was unrelated to the videotape case and he was arrested on at least two previous charges from Placer County, northern California.

The charges include petty theft and driving under influence of alcohol. The surprise arrest came when the videotape taken by Michael Crooks has been played repeatedly on television, in which police officer Jeremy Morse of the Inglewood police department was slamming a handcuffed teenager boy, 16-year-old Donovan Jackson, onto the back of a police car before punching him once in the face.

After the disclosure of the tape, the Los Angeles grand jury started investigating the violent case, which prompted an outcry reminiscent of the response to the 1991 beating of black motorist Rodney King.

The grand jury hopes to get the original videotape shot by Crooks. Rejecting the district attorney's subpoena, Crooks did notappear before a grand jury investigating the police beating Thursday morning, citing he feared for his life after he shot the video last Saturday in Inglewood in southwestern Los Angeles suburban.

A question that hasn't come to a conclusion is what took place at the Inglewood gas station Saturday before Crooks started taping. ¡¡ The video has caused public furor over police brutality and racial discrimination. Jackson and his father Coby Chavis, who was stopped by police while driving a car with expired tag, filed a lawsuit on Wednesdayin a federal court, seeking unspecified damages from the city of Inglewood, the Los Angeles County and seven officers from two police departments. Many compared the incident to the Rodney King case in 1991, in which black driver King was beaten up by four white police officers in Los Angeles at the end of a traffic pursuit. The acquittal of the police officers sparked the worst riots in modernUS history, leading 54 people dead and 1 billion US dollars in property damages. "

The Lower 9th: Documenting police brutality
"Common Ground Relief has never been a big fan of the NOPD. From the first days of the relief effort in Algiers Point, cops have been adversarial towards volunteers and organizers.
For a while, volunteers were doing "Copwatch," or videotaping and documenting police/citizen interactions, much to the chagrin of the officers, who occasionally saw fit to arrest the Copwatcher on some trumped-up charge or other. If the Copwatcher was black, then the attention of law enforcement was consistently more inclined to arrest first, and ask questions later.

Common Ground is still engaged in police accountability, offering legal assistance and documenting allegations of police harassment or brutality. On their website, Common Ground has posted a map of New Orleans overlaid with icons that marking various places throughout town where reported harassment or brutality has occurred. The map shows dozens of incidents, based on phone calls to the legal hotline, reports taken at the CG legal clinic, and some exit interviews with OPP inmates.

By the looks of the map, the worst places in town for police misconduct are the French Quarter -- particularly Bourbon Street -- and a section of Mid-City around the Courthouse. Over two dozen allegations of police theft, abuse, illegal searches, or abusive or inappropriate conduct are reported in that vicinity. On Bourbon Street, where officers famously beat up retired schoolteacher Robert Davis a month after Katrina, there are five reported beatings (one of which resulted in the death of the arrested suspect from being hit twice by a taser), and two police thefts."

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