Posts Tagged 'FBI'

DHS Officer Bans Photographer From Public Protest in Los Angeles

Last week on October 5, I decided to head to downtown Los Angeles to photograph a rally that was being held at the federal building. What was dubbed as a National Day of Action against FBI Repression ended up being a major non-event, and only about 5-10 people were there to protest the FBI’s recent raids that targeted political activists in Illinois and Minnesota.

So for a photographer hoping to capture another protest with the usual high energy associated with these kinds of events, there really wasn’t much to photograph. Plus, it started raining fifteen minutes into this tiny protest, and that was still before anyone even arrived. However, at the same time the rain started falling, a Department of Homeland Security vehicle arrived, which caused me to believe that people were going to show up—at some point—and they did.

I stuck around and burned the roll’s last few frames on the lackluster protesters that finally arrived and used the very last frame for the Homeland Security decal that was on the front fender of the DHS SUV. It seemed like an important stock image to get, seeing that DHS has been known to harass a photographer or two. I thought I could use my photo for future posts dealing with DHS harassment rather than pulling the DHS decal from the web.

Well, I should’ve known that I would be posting a video showing a DHS officer prohibiting me from returning to a protest that was being held on a public sidewalk before I even processed the roll of film I shot that day.

Grab Your Cameras: FBI Protest in Los Angeles Today

Later today, as part of the National Day of Action Against FBI Repression, there will be a rally in downtown Los Angeles to protest the FBI’s September 24 raids of well-known anit-war activists in Minneapolis and Chicago.

Today marks the day that some of the activists were ordered to appear in US Federal Court in Chicago to be questioned about their anti-war activities. Officials have indicated that the activists are being investigated for their possible support of terrorism.

Date: Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Time: 4:30 pm
Location: Downtown Federal Building
300 N Los Angeles Street
Los Angeles, CA

Famed Photographer’s Double Life

The Commercial Appeal in Memphis dropped a bombshell this week – that famed civil rights photographer Ernest Withers was also working for the FBI as a paid informant. Many people, including Withers’ family, expressed shock that the photographer could have been at the same time documenting the black community’s struggle and helping the government keep tabs on it. The Appeal was able to obtain more than 7,000 pages of documents that outlined Withers’ work for the FBI in the 1960s, including handing over photos and names of people involved in protest activities.

Known as the “original civil rights photographer,” Withers was on the front lines during some of the era’s seminal events, including the Emmett Till trial, the integration of Ole Miss and Martin Luther King’s assassination.

Withers’ actions are infuriating. As documentary photographers, we all know how difficult it is to earn someone’s trust and be allowed entry into their private lives. We are privileged when that happens. But when someone like Withers comes along, his behavior casts a looming shadow of distrust over all of us. If Withers were alive today he should be expelled from the profession and marked with a scarlet I—for informant. That way, everyone would know how much of a disgrace he his, despite his fascinating work.

On a personal note, a few years ago I was on Sunset Boulevard and an LAPD officer asked me what I knew about some people I was photographing and if there was anything I would like to share with him. I told him I didn’t know anything. The cop then let out this dismissive chuckle and said, “Oh yeah?”, knowing that what I just said was absolutely not true. That’s all I said and walked away. Like most documentary photographers, I would never betray the people I photograph.

Articles from Commercial Appeal and AP

Seattle Weekly Harassed at FBI Building

Seattle Weekly photographer Steven Miller was just trying to take a photo of attorney Larry Hildes for a cover story on government spying when he got into a little trouble with the FBI. Despite being on a public sidewalk, Seattle’s FBI Building was serving as the backdrop, and that is really discouraged.

At first, security came out and told them not to shoot the building. Miller described their conversation:

He asked if we knew who was in the building. I answered, ‘The FBI and Washington Fusion Center.’ He asked what I had against the Washington Fusion Center. I declined to answer. He asked my name. I declined to answer that as well.”

Then an FBI agent appeared to get to the bottom of the situation. Miller said:

He asked for my ID repeatedly. I declined and we kept on shooting. He asked for my ID again. I said he didn’t have a right to it. He insisted he had a right to ask for my ID. I noted that I had a right to refuse. He said it again, and I told him I had a right to tell him to go jump in Elliott Bay, and pointed out the location for him.

Then there were three more FBI agents on the scene. I mean, of course. This was a four-agent incident. Miller says it got so stressful that he and Hildes left voluntarily.

When asked for comment, an FBI spokesperson said:

“We request people not take pictures. It’s a voluntary thing. People have the right to do so, but we do like to ask why as part of our security concerns.” As for the ID check. “I guess they wanted to know who they were.”

The thing that really bothers me about incidents like this is the self-important hysteria that goes along with it. It always make me wonder if law enforcement really don’t have anything better to do, or are they really dumb enough not to be able to distinguish between terrorists casing the place and a legitimate, or harmless, photographer?

And I’m not calling FBI agents dumb because I don’t think that can be the case, but I am honestly confused. Because government officials going after citizens doing legal activities does more toward eroding the fundamental tenets of American democracy than these outside forces we’re repeatedly told are trying to destroy our way of life are.

Article from Seattle Weekly

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