A Cape Town False Bay tagged image from photographer – Thomas Hawk as published on Flickr.
I Was Assaulted By This Man Who Identified Himself as a Police Officer and Refused to Provide Me Identification, Photography is Not a Crime
Image by Thomas Hawk
So I know that I write a lot about being harassed for my photography on the streets of San Francisco and for some this story may be getting old. I shoot every day though and at least once or twice a month have a run in with a security guard or authority figure of some sort somewhere. Typically I can resolve these episodes on my own amicably with the individual involved, but sometimes things go over the line. In the past year I’ve blogged about three of these incidents that crossed the line. One was when a security guard at One Bush was following me around the sidewalk trying to put his hand in front of my camera and not allowing me to shoot the building. Another was when the Sheriff’s Department detained me and ran what I consider an illegal background check on me merely for shooting near the train tracks in Oakland. Another was when a particular nasty altercation took place between me and a security guard who came out of 45 Fremont middle finger a’blazin’ to insist that I not shoot that building.
But today’s episode was the worst I’ve encountered so far. Ironically enough, it occurred once again outside of 45 Fremont Street. This was even after I spoke with a PR person from the Shorenstein owned property who apologized to me for my treatment and assured me that I would find a more tolerant atmosphere at that property in the future.
Today, aqui-ali (another local Flickr photographer), helveticaneue (in from out of town) and I went out to do a bit of shooting. Since Aqui had a meeting down on 2nd Street later this afternoon we decided to head that way and shoot the Transbay Terminal. 45 Fremont was in our path and we were shooting some photos of it as we were walking by. It was then that the security guard there told us that we could not shoot the building. When I explained that we were in a public area and had a right to shoot the building he insisted and called another security guard over on his radio who also tried to get us to stop taking pictures of the building. I still refused as it is my right to shoot buildings in San Francisco from a public area.
It was at this point that things went from bad to worse. At this point an individual came over who identified himself as a police officer and told us to get out of the plaza, off the sidewalk and to physically stand on the asphalt in the street where the cars were driving by. When I tried to object this individual (who was significantly larger than me) assaulted me and forcibly grabbed my arm quite hard and pulled me towards the street. When I freed myself from his grip I told him that I was going to take his photograph. He told me that I could not take his photograph and that if I did that I could "watch what would happen to my camera."
I took his photograph anyways and that is him up there at the top of the story. Once he had us physically on the asphalt in the traffic off the sidewalk I once again asked him for his identification and asked to see his badge. He refused to provide me his identification and refused to show me his badge. It is my understanding that when someone identifies themselves as a police officer that I have a right to see their identification proving this fact. This prevents anyone from falsely impersonating police officers and abusing a false authority. I asked him at least five times to see his badge and he refused. He continued to confer with the security guards at the building though.
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