by Guy Fawkes
To local, state, and federal police, as well as private security hired to guard public places
We are photographers. We are artists, no different than painters, sculptors, and musicians. We do not become terrorists, pedophiles, or any other kind of “suspect”, just by the mere act of using a camera in public places.
We reserve the right to pursue our art as we choose, as long as we are not violating private property laws.
As artists, we photograph what is interesting to us. This may be bridges, water tanks, trains, public buildings. In the U.S. there is a legal RIGHT to photograph anything in clear view in public. Law enforcement should be well aware of this, yet there is case after case of aggressive tactics by law enforcement against photographers, sometimes under the guise of “preventing terrorism”, other times cops just not liking being under the camera lens.
In light of this we do not ask, we DEMAND that law enforcement authorities OBEY the very same laws that everyone else has to and stop the illegal and abusive harassment they have been perpetrating upon people who are violating no laws.
In most states/cities, a person on foot undergoing a lawful activity is NOT required to present ID to police, nor is he required to answer any questions. Photographers exercising their legal rights should NOT be the victim of phony “contempt of cop” charges, officers being refused ID and conversation need to suck it up and walk away.
We, as photographers, should NOT have to bear the responsibility of teaching the police federal, state, and local laws regarding photography. As police have shown persistent obstinacy when told by photographers that they are overstepping their bounds, the only way they seem to be able to learn is by losing a court case, which doesn’t seem to help in instructing any OTHER cops about photographers rights.
We believe it is the RESPONSIBILITY of those in charge to spread the word to their subordinants the simple laws that I have stated above.
1. Public photography is legal, including photographing the outside of federal buildings.
2. Unless there is a local law to the contrary, photographers are NOT required to give out ID, or answer any questions. Ordering them to stop photographing is ILLEGAL, they are NOT required to obey such orders, and police should not give them in the first place.
Considering the availability of the internet to almost everyone, there is NO reason why this can’t be disseminated among all law enforcement officers. It needs to be done.
Thank you, Guy, for submitting this post. As always, we encourage anyone with a police encounter or a piece of writing they want published here to contact us. The more people who step up to share stories the more knowledgeable we’re and the more able we’re to make a change.