You Have The Right To Photograph Federal Buildings – So Long As You Don’t Actually Try It

One of Matt Urick's photos

One of Matt Urick's photos

Why do we put up with this kind of police state nonsense? Good to see Washington’s mainstream newspaper, the Post, highlighting the issue:

A few weeks ago, on his way to work, Matt Urick stopped to snap a few pictures of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s headquarters. He thought the building was ugly but might make for an interesting photo. The uniformed officer who ran up to him didn’t agree. He told Urick he was not allowed to photograph federal buildings.

Urick wanted to tell the guard that there are pictures of the building on HUD’s Web site, that every angle of the building is visible in street views on Google Maps and that he was merely an amateur photographer, not a threat. But Urick kept all this to himself.

“A lot of these guys have guns and are enforcing laws they obviously don’t understand, and they are not to be reasoned with,” he said. After detaining Urick for a few minutes and conferring with a colleague on a radio, the officer let him go.

Courts have long ruled that the First Amendment protects the right of citizens to take photographs in public places. Even after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, law enforcement agencies have reiterated that right in official policies.

But in practice, those rules don’t always filter down to police officers and security guards who continue to restrict photographers, often citing authority they don’t have. Almost nine years after the terrorist attacks, which ratcheted up security at government properties and transportation hubs, anyone photographing federal buildings, bridges, trains or airports runs the risk of being seen as a potential terrorist.

Reliable statistics on detentions and arrests of photographers are hard to come by, but photographers, their advocates and even police agree that confrontations still occur frequently. Photographers had run-ins with police before the 2001 attacks, but constitutional lawyers say the combination of heightened security concerns and the spread of digital cameras has made such incidents more common…

[continues in the Post]

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  • Haystack

    The architectural style is called “Brutalism.” Its a form of modernism that is trying to be honest about the building materials used, but has really just scarred the American landscape with despotic concrete blocks known to inspire suicidal ideation in those who are forced to live or work around them.

  • Haystack

    The architectural style is called “Brutalism.” Its a form of modernism that is trying to be honest about the building materials used, but has really just scarred the American landscape with despotic concrete blocks known to inspire suicidal ideation in those who are forced to live or work around them.