First Amendment Showdown

Photo by discarted

The Christian Science Monitor turns its focus on photographers rights this week, reporting on the ongoing clash between police and the photographers who shoot them.

CSM says that the increase in amount of camera seizures and photo deletion is testing First Amendment protections and names a few well-known incidents, including the recent trial in New Orleans where two photographers accused police of wrongful arrest and lost, Carlos Miller‘s trial for refusal to stop taking photos of police in Miami, and the Oakland cop who shot and killed an unarmed man in a BART station.

It’s disappointing that the article says police “often have the upper hand in court.” But it also doesn’t come as a surprise — we’ve seen it a lot here in the blogosphere with reaction to photographer vs. law enforcement incidents as an indication that many people seem to slavishly support police actions despite evidence that shows a clear overstep of legal boundaries.

Nevertheless, the article quotes attorney Bert Krages who says photos (and video) are the best defense when accused photographers are (falsely) accused of obstruction, which is a common charge in these scenarios. He also recommends that photographers who find themselves in these situations file a report with internal affairs and contact local media as they should have a vested interest in photography in public places.

And, finally, from Marjorie Esman of the Louisiana ACLU:

We have this thing called the Constitution, and the idea that you can’t film something that you can see is ludicrous. The sad thing about these cases is it suggests that police don’t want people to know what they’re doing, which then implies that they’re doing something that they don’t want people to know that they’re doing.

Article from Christian Science Monitor

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3 Responses to “First Amendment Showdown”


  1. 1 Candice March 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I think this quote: “Police have a legitimate right to object to filming that interferes with their duties. And “there’s another reason cops are skittish,” explains one police officer commenting on a 2008 Popular Mechanics story titled Watching the Watchers. “As anyone who has ever seen a Michael Moore movie knows, creative editing and partial context can let you make film say whatever you want.”” isn’t entirely truthful as to why some police fear photos and video being taken of their actions. As the Oakland and, going back a ways, the Rodney King incidents have demonstrated, video can bring to light legitimate police abuses that can lead to criminal charges and trouble for the police department.

    Police are people, and like what happens on occasion with people, there are going to be times when the police are doing things they don’t want the public to find out about. But precisely because they are the police, the public not knowing what they do when they’re in public shouldn’t be an option.

    • 2 babydiscarted March 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm

      Candice – Agreed. If it interferes with police work, then by all means photographers should not be there. Creative editing is slimy, usually dishonest and not relevant in pretty much any photographers’ rights case.

      There’s no reason to be skittish when you’re doing your job well.


  1. 1 First Amendment Showdown « | The Click Trackback on March 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

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