Bike Cops Arrest Photog at Nightclub Scene

Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/City Paper

Jauhien Sasnou, a freelance photographer in Philadelphia, was arrested last November for taking photos of a melee that took place outside of a nightclub. He was found guilty, fined $148 and ordered to do 24 hours of community service. The Philadelphia City Paper reports this week on Sasnou’s arrest and the ongoing problem photographers face when shooting scenes that involve law enforcement.

Sasnou says that, on the night in question, a group of concertgoers ignored police requests to disperse and shoving and pepper spray ensued. The whole incident took three minutes and three people were arrested – but not before Sasnou took out his camera to document what he describes as excessive force by the police. That’s when an officer noticed him and he was arrested. Sasnou was not informed what his crime was. (The police report says Sasnou “remained on location and began to take pictures” after he was told to leave.)

From the article:

Civil rights lawyers say that Sasnou’s experience isn’t uncommon. Although there doesn’t seem to be any hard data available, anecdotal evidence suggests that citizens who document police activity with cameras are frequently arrested.

In regards to photographing police officers, Pennsylvania apparently has a murky law that revolves around technicalities and the difference between “not prohibited” and “legally allowed.” Nevertheless, the Philadelphia police spokesman said photographing police activity is not something you should be arrested for.

And, finally, the writer makes this point, which is one we’ve long held on this blog:   

It is, perhaps, ironic in an age when, across the country, police cameras capture and ticket red-light-runners, and many traffic stops are videotaped from the dashboard of a squad car. “Well, all of a sudden when the shoe is on the other foot, it’s, ‘Wait, wait, there’s an intrusion of the wiretap act,'” says Paul Hetznecker, a Philadelphia civil rights lawyer.

Article via the City Paper

7 Responses to “Bike Cops Arrest Photog at Nightclub Scene”

  1. 1 Sef February 23, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Playing the devil’s advocate here: Was he the only one arrested? Or was he arrested along with others for failing to disperse? Obviously, if you are part of a mob, whipping out your camera does not bestow you with automatic exemption from arrest if you are doing something else that is illegal, such as failing to disperse when ordered.

    • 2 babydiscarted February 23, 2010 at 7:24 pm

      Devil’s advocate is always appreciated. But, if you read the article, you’ll learn that Sasnou was walking away from the scene when it occurred to him to pull out his camera. He says an officer noticed him and ran over to handcuff him. Does that affect your opinion?

  2. 3 discarted February 24, 2010 at 11:11 am


    You should read the original article. Sasnou was targeted by the police because he had a camera and was taking pictures of the incident.

    How can someone play devil’s advocate when they don’t even know all of the facts???

  3. 4 J Tammaro February 24, 2010 at 11:15 am

    The key point you are missing is he stopped. At that point he was ignoring the officers command to leave the area and that will get you arrested every time.

    While I believe the officers probably arrested him for photographing them it can’t be argued that he complied with their request and they arrested him anyway.

    • 5 discarted February 24, 2010 at 4:08 pm

      J Tammaro

      There are such things as unlawful orders.

      More important, the public has a legal right to observe as well as document incidences involving police that occur within public space. The simple act of standing on a public sidewalk while photographing police officers (who have been accused of using excessive force, nonetheless), does not constitute disorderly conduct.

  4. 6 ThisOne March 4, 2010 at 2:48 am

    This resolves to a simple questions, “Do Philadelphia police obey the law? If not, what use are they??”


  1. 1 The Photographer’s Rights. « DC 105 blog Trackback on February 24, 2010 at 11:09 am

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