Know thy rights

A photographer was taking pictures in a public transportation station when he was asked to stop. The security people who stopped him claimed he was breaking some law, but could not cite which law he was breaking. After some arguments, the "real" cops arrived, and they took the side against the photographer.

All I was concerned with was the legality of my actions. If I had in fact committed a crime by taking photographs, I should (and in fact wanted to) be cited under the relevant law so that I could then pursue the matter in the courts and assert my First Amendment rights. Officer Ryan told me in a very straightforward manner that he did not wish to allow me the opportunity to assert my constitutional rights in court.

After walking over to the group of Fare Inspectors and BART Police Officers, Officer Ryan returned to speak to me. He expressed his frustration at the situation and me by saying: "Would it have been so difficult for you to just stop taking photographs when these guys told you to stop? If you weren't on your soapbox, I'd be out fighting real crime rather than standing around here dealing with you." He expounded further, "Even if there is no law forbidding photography in the MUNI System, the Fare Inspectors have the right to refuse you service for any reason they choose, including taking photographs. Once they refuse you service they can swear out a citizens arrest for trespassing. I, or other officers, will book you and you'll spend the rest of your weekend in jail. It won't be for taking photographs, so your weekend would be ruined yet you'd never get a chance to argue the matter of taking photographs before a judge."

It saddens me that a professional Police Officer, sworn to uphold the law and protect the citizens of his city, was willing to twist and pervert the law in order the threaten me with arrest for exercising my rights. I can?t begin to tell you how shocked I was when Officer Ryan threatened me with arrest for Trespassing if I continued to take photographs! This is America, He is a law enforcement officer, what the hell was he thinking?!?!

I can?t help but feel that the terrorists have won. Have we again reached a point in our history where fear is so strong that it overrides justice and common sense? Have we arrived at a place where the phrase ?for security reasons? trumps logic? Where it trumps justice, fairness and liberty? Are we so paranoid that we?re willing to give up our basic freedoms in pursuit of elusive security? I?m all for doing what we can to make our country safer. I live in San Francisco, a place that is likely on the terrorist todo list. Of course I want security. But if we sacrifice our freedoms that were gained by the blood of patriots, we will cease to be beacon of freedom that we should be. Bottom line, as long as we are a free and open society, we can not plug every security hole?but, even if we gave up our freedom and liberty, we still wouldn?t achieve security!

E-mail this story to a friend.

You must be logged in to post comments.