DC’s Most Detained Photographer Gets Detained Again

Last October, as a result of a pretty major lawsuit brought by the New York chapter of the ACLU, the federal government agreed to end the harassment of photographers outside all federal buildings. Sadly, not all federal employees have been apprised of the decision.

Here is photographer Jerome Vorus’s story of his encounter outside DC’s Superior Court, from our NPRO flickr group. (You might remember Vorus has been detained at Reagan National Airport and on the streets of DC in the recent past for his photography activities.)

On February 10, 2011, I was taking photographs around Capitol Hill and started to take photos of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (the corner of 6th and C Street NW), at which time I was stopped by a Court Security Officer (CSO) who told me that my actions of taking photographs were unlawful, and that I would need to stop taking pictures of the building even from the public sidewalk. The CSO (Gasser) then called for US Marshals for assistance and I was immediately stopped by deputy Torrance Wilson (4101) and Shanks (4475). I was told that I was being stopped for photography.

Both deputy Marshals began to enlist personal information from me, asking for my identification at which time I asked “am I being detained or am I free to go”. Both officers told me that I was not being detained, that I was “being stopped for questioning” I continued to ask “am I being detained or am I free to go” I was then told that I was being detained because I recording them. Deputy Wilson then called a supervisor for assistance because it was obvious that they were not knowledgeable of the law as it regards to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

For my protection and the protection of the officers, I recorded the event in the form of video and audio, at which time the deputy Wilson became very aggressive and attempted to snatch the camera out of my hand. The deputy Wilson eventually involuntarily retrieved my camera from me and deleted video of the incident. I have since, attempted to recover the deleted files and contemplating sending the camera to the manufacture.

When supervisory deputy US Marshal, Christopher Schwartz (5287) arrived to the scene, the actions of both deputies were supported by Schwartz in detaining me for photography of a “sensitive building”. When I attempted to file a report on both, deputies Wilson and Shanks deputy Schwartz quickly deterred me from making a report stating that I would be taken into custody for “being on the property”. The fact is that I was on a public sidewalk and my pictures from that day prove it.

The officers who were involved felt that they knew the law to the T. I was told multiple times that I could not video or audio record them, that it was wire tapping in the District. That the District of Columbia was a two party consent state, which is obviously wrong which shows more evidence of lack of training. I was also told that taking photos of any federal building is prohibited. In an authoritative manor they demanded that I allow them to view the photos that were taken until I informed them “per the forth amendment of the constitution, I shall remain secure within my persons and that I don’t consent to any searches of myself or property” at which they backed off.

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