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NY photographer held for hours by police over flag photo

Posted 24 March, 2006 in Op-Ed

Thomas Hawk writes:

"Having been the subject of unwarranted police background checks and being detained when shooting in the streets of Oakland myself, I was dismayed to read about this guy, Ben Hider, who was detained by police for two hours, searched, forced to empty his pockets and frisked. His crime? Taking photos of the flags out in front of the courthouse. Although he was issued an apology this is just unacceptable behavior on the part of the police. Photography is not a crime."

Read article at ABC News

The article says, "…that’s why today a memo was issued offering very clear specifics on what to do with people taking pictures in public places…"

Uh, how about nothing? Photography in public places is legal in the US.

Further reading

Via Boing Boing



That is terrible, what is it going to be like down the track when it officaly becomes a police state.

I live in Australia and was walking through brisbane when I saw a t-shirt that read “I’m a photographer, not a terrorist”… I felt that that was such a strong message is all.

Liam in Budapest

I couldn’t agree more. What next, photographers won’t be able to take pictures of police station’s, army bases, power plants, homes of doctors who perform abortions, security check points, the list goes on and on. What terrorist organization domestic or international would ever want photo recon of this.

I live in Hungary and was walking through Budapest when I saw a t-shirt that read “Tinfoil hats are for crybabies”… I felt that that was such a strong message is all.


Liam, in the US, there are laws against photographing certain military and nuclear installations. As for the rest, we have the right to photograph them.

If you disagree with that, the way to address it is to lobby your elected law-makers by presenting your argument and asking them to change the law. It is not to detain or to lie to people, citing non-existant laws ("you can’t photograph federal land, it’s in the Patriot Act", which is an outright lie as the Patriot Act, in neither its original (HR3162, 2001) nor reauthorized (HR3199, 2005) versions, says anything about photography at all) for engaging in completely legal activities. Although I am not a lawyer, I believe that may actually be illegal; if anyone knows differently, please correct me.

If not wanting to be detained for doing something that’s completely legal makes me a tinfoil hat type or a crybaby, then I guess that’s what I am, and I have no problem with that whatsoever.

Finally, only a dipshit would haul out a bunch of conspicuous gear to shoot something for nefarious purposes. I’m sure that wack-job terrorists have their fair share of dipshits, just like any other group of people, but the smart move is to get one of the millions of camera phones that are in circulation in this country—and that, curiously, nobody seems to have any problem with whatsoever—and do it on the sly.


Truth of the matter, with everything that’s been going on, they wouldn’t even bother with such things. Easier to do it on the fly, then be caught doing it, since they’re taking normal americans, off the street for legally photographing places and things, why risk the operation?

Simple fact is, Patriot Act is just another way to give the government more power, and using the terrorism boogey-man is how they get us to say “Thank you sir, may I have another”.

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