In the past we’ve linked to news items of people being harassed by authorities because they were taking pictures of public places. Something which is still perfectly legal despite the efforts of the Bush Administration. Now Etan of Too Much Sexy has become the latest person to be stopped and questioned for taking pictures in public.
Today I went out to shoot a roll of film for my first project. I was stopped by police before snapping my first photograph.
Standing in a snow bank in Essex County College, preparing to take a photograph of a flight of stairs, a policeman stopped me and told me to follow him. He asked me why I was photographing their campus. I informed him that it was for class. He then told me I’d have to speak with his Seargant.
I politely explained that Essex County College is a public campus and I am legally allowed to photograph public property. He told me that ever since September 11th, “things have changed.”
The seargant asked for my ID, school and state, and didn’t believe me when I told him that Rutgers has a photography class. After giving him my ID he disappeared for 10 minutes, probably to check if I was in a terrorist database. He returned and said I can photograph their building.
He let me go, but before doing so he recommended that I not take photographs publicly in Newark. I told him it was my legal right to do so. He said I would be stopped again and I calmly said, “I know.”
That was one of two such encounters that day.