August 16, 2013 by David K. Sutton
Police State: Journalists, Photographers Beware The Growing Domestic Army
If you’re building a “domestic army,” then what is one thing you need to crack down on? — Information — Or in other words, journalists and photographers.
More specifically, you need to afford greater leniency to the police, less so to the public, especially journalists and photographers. Because people who document events may offer a counter-narrative to the official word, and that undermines the police state.
In Los Angeles, police detained a photographer for “interfering” with an investigation. But it seems the only people who interfered with the investigation are the police officers who didn’t take kindly to being photographed, and went out of their way to make it known.
Reason.com — Shawn Nee is an award winning street and documentary photographer living in Hollywood, California. He says that on June 2, 2013, his right to take photos under the First Amendment was violated when the Los Angeles Police Department officers detained him while working in Hollywood.
“People have the right to take pictures in a public space and that includes photographing [police],” says Nee. “People have the right to know what goes on in their communities and in public.”
Nee was standing on a residential sidewalk taking pictures of a man he had been photographing for years when LAPD officers showed up about 90 feet away to investigate a domestic dispute. Nee took photos of the dispute from behind two chain link fences when he was approached by an officer.
I do not automatically think all police officers are overbearing. I don’t want you to mistake concern for policy and law changes (that lead to the militarization of police forces) as a reason to fear all police officers. So with that said, I will offer a small defense of the officer in this situation, because based on the video above (which might not tell the whole story), it seems to me that Nee could have chosen to be slightly less coy when the officer approached him. But it’s quite possible he’s had encounters in the past that caused him to have a defensive posture. But while it was within his rights to take photos and not fear retaliation by the police, there was no particular reason, at least not from the evidence we have here, to be combative when confronted. That is unless he was confronted with undue force, which does not appear to be the case in this situation. Either way, it’s not going to get you anywhere in that situation. We need policy change, and it’s not going to happen with one-on-one encounters with police officers.
I think the police officer is wrong here, but if Nee had simply told the officer his name and what he was doing, this might have ended differently. Maybe not, but we will never know. And I know this might sound like I’m saying we should cower when confronted by the police, but what I’m really saying is that we should simply offer police some deference, as long as they are not violating our rights. After all, they are doing dangerous and difficult jobs. Nee didn’t have to capitulate, he simply needed to be less defensive, because that immediate defensive reaction is likely to provoke police into a certain mindset. That is not an excuse, however. The burden should always lie with police officers to conduct their duty respectfully. And I say again, this is a specific situation within a greater police state mentality. So these encounters are likely to increase, but they aren’t going to be solved in the moment. We need mindset change across the country, from the citizenry and from the legislators.
Now we head to Wisconsin, where police arrested a journalist for trying to photograph someone else who was being arrested. He was charged with “resisting or obstructing” arrest.
Isthmus | The Daily Page — [Matt] Rothschild says he goes down to the Capitol about three times a week to report on the noontime sing-along, which protests Gov. Scott Walker’s policies. He did nothing different on Thursday. He says he recorded the crowd count — about 160 — in his reporter’s notebook, made note of the signs people were carrying, interviewed participants and took pictures.
When Rothschild saw that Bonnie Block, a friend and member of the Raging Grannies singing group, was being arrested, he started to take pictures of the officers making the arrest. He says he tried to take a picture of Block as she entered the elevator but was told by police officers to stand back. Rothschild, who has published his own account about the arrest, says he identified himself as a journalist but was told to leave the area.
Rothschild says when he told the officers he had a right to be there, one grabbed his arm and told him he was being charged with obstruction.
“I didn’t get close to the officers,” he says. “I didn’t get in their face when we walked down the hall. I was just trying to get in position to take a decent picture.”
The United States of America is still trying to hold onto some semblance of a functioning democracy, but combine greater rule by the one percent (worshipped by people like Wis. governor Scott Walker) with an overbearing, militarized police force post-9/11, and it adds up to rule by elite.