The question of where one may stand and take pictures, and what one may take pictures of, is one that has occasionally impacted me directly. Sometimes people are a little confused about it, but the evidence of court rulings in the past century or so is that an American standing on public property (the sidewalk or street) may take pictures of anything s/he sees. In scenes that involve people close up, I generally confine my snapshots to people who do not immediately express displeasure at being photographed. But I make an exception for people who decide to browbeat me or take my camera away: those people can be sure I will publish the picture.
In this incident, described by Mark Esposito on Jonathan Turley’s blog, photographer Ian Graham of Richmond, VA, who is part owner of a free magazine called RVA, was arrested by Richmond police for standing on a
busy public intersection taking pictures of police arresting demonstrators at Occupy Richmond. He was told he had to move to a “media area” far away from the action. When he questioned police about why he had to move (most street photographers know the legal history of such things), he was arrested:
Graham was detained for the apparent ”crime” of walking and photographing police from a public street. It’s more likely he was arrested in retaliation for questioning police about why he was unable to traverse the street and perform an obviously legal action. He was held at the Public Safety Building for about thirty minutes and then released on a summons.
Eight other people were arrested during the 1:00 a.m raid of the Occupy Richmond encampment. Camping out in solidary with the Occupy Wall Street movement since October 15th, the demonstrators were told they were now trespassing in violation of a city ordinance prohibiting them from being present in the public park after dark. Boy, that took almost three weeks for police to figure out.
I don’t know if police in Richmond and other cities feel enabled by the intimidating actions of Oakland police to do things police have no right to do. But I do know the Virginia ACLU promptly took Graham’s case. If there is any justice… well, I suppose that’s what we’ll find out.