It is not uncommon for police to harass citizens for taking pictures. In fact, if you head over to photography is not a crime you’ll find some stories that will make you pretty sad on the inside. Sometimes those stories hit the news, sometimes they don’t.
But you can be pretty sure that when a news editor gets harassed for snapping an iPhone pictures, it will be on the news.
According to his news story, Holden was snapping an iPhone picture of some police officers huddling around a young black guy, when he was threatened to leave the scene or get arrested. According to Holden, no other pedestrians were asked to leave.
Holden took a picture of the threatening police officer (shown above) and cycled away. Here is Holden’s account of the incident:
“Back to Saulet: “You need to leave or you’re coming with me,” he said while repeating his arrest threat yet again. Commuters, shoppers, and vagrants were milling about the sidewalk and plaza—some people were passing closer to the center of the police activity than I was—but I was the only one on that busy block told to leave (the guy watching the police and taking their picture). I hadn’t tried speaking to the officers or bothering them in any way, I hadn’t even identified myself as a reporter, and I was standing on public property. The officers did not accuse me of any offense other than standing there.”
Sadly it did not end there. Holden asked a few officers who witnessed the incident who was the commanding officer at the time, and identified himself as a reporter. To that he was answered: “I’m going to come into The Stranger and bother you while you’re at work.”.
A later follow up with Seattle’s King County Sheriff’s Department, Sergeant Cindi West, revealed that the force officially thinks that:
“It’s a free country, and as long as you have a legal right to be there, you can take a picture. … in general a person cannot be ordered to stop photographing or to leave property if they have a legal right to be there. Additionally, if a group of people are in an area legally we could not order just one person to leave.”
And so that news story was born. Holden is going to file a complaint and follow up on his The Stranger’s news column. Would be interesting to see if it yields any effect.
You can read the full account on The Stranger