A photographer in Quebec City, Canada, was fined and taken away in handcuffs for loitering. The photographer was merely waiting for clouds to move into the frame to create the perfect photograph.
Professional photographer John Morris, from Prince Edward Island, got a $168 (230 CAD) fine. Police accused him of loitering outside the U.S. consulate while trying to capture a perfect shot of the Château Frontenac hotel.
According to Morris, a guard from the U.S. consulate approached him and asked him to leave. The guard expressed concerns that he might capture photos inside their building. Morris, standing his ground, asserted his right to take photos on a public sidewalk. This did not sit well with the consulate.
The matter escalated when the guard called the police due to a “suspicious man near the American consulate.” When the officers arrived, they confronted Morris, who refused to reveal his identity unless the police clarified the offence he was committing. At this point, he decided to film the encounter using his phone.
Handcuffed and fined
Things took an unexpected turn when the police handcuffed Morris and issued a $230 Canadian dollar fine, citing a bylaw that prohibits loitering. Morris is a professional photographer known for his work on Canadian landscapes and sports.
Morris told CBC News, “It’s absolutely crazy that you would be given a fine for waiting for clouds on a public sidewalk. I’m a professional photographer. I do this for a living.”
Whilst this event may seem ludicrous, many countries have strict laws around photographing near and around government buildings and embassies. Some countries even prohibit photographing the police.
Photography is not a crime
Quebec City police spokesperson Sandra Dion confirmed to CBC News that police can apply the loitering bylaw on a “case-by-case basis.”
However, in this case, Morris was not doing anything wrong. This story introduces questions about what constitutes loitering. On any given day, there are numbers of people spending time in urban areas, not doing anything much in particular. The fact that Morris was doing his job should mean that he was not loitering.
In the end, Morris pleaded not guilty and has been advised that he may be able to appeal the fine. Sadly, he never managed to capture the desired shot of the Château Frontenac. As the clouds he was waiting for finally appeared, he was being escorted to the police vehicle.
[Via CBC News]