Photographers labeled potential terrorists
The Los Angeles Police Department’s counter terror guidelines are coming under new scrutiny as they attack a lot of activities supposed to be protected by the First Amendment, including photography.
Photographer Carlos Miller was reporting on Occupy Miami when he was arrested by half a dozen police officers dressed in riot gear. Miller was on a public street and believes he was targeted for videotaping police officers.
“They’re recording us, they don’t want us recording them,” said Miller. “They really want to put a scare factor into us,” he added.
Miller has been arrested three times for exercising his First Amendment right of freedom of speech and expression.
According to many police departments across the country, including the LAPD, Miller’s actions fall into the realm of potential terrorism.
“This is the police state that people have been talking about or have talked about in years past. This is no longer conspiracy or paranoia. This is where we’re headed,” said Jason Leopold, an investigative reporter at Truthout.org
Leopold compares Los Angeles’ anti-terror campaign to New York’s controversial spying program. Los Angeles police officers have the green light to report photography and other legal activities to their counterterrorism division.
Several journalists claim they have been detained for taking photographs in public places. A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy detained photographer Shawn Nee, while he took photos at a subway station. Video of the incident shows the deputy tried to connect Nee to al-Qaeda.
“I want to know if you’re in cahoots with al-Qaeda to sell these pictures for terrorists purposes,” the deputy told Nee.
Nee is now suing the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, but even lawsuits like Nee’s are not deterring police from toughening their anti-terror crackdowns in the U.S.
“Our democracy is on thin ice,” said Jim Lafferty, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, L.A. Chapter.
Lafferty and other civil libertarians are especially concerned about the LAPD’s counterterrorism policies, especially because of the department’s history of violating public privacy over the decades.
“As long as we don’t give into the fear we can prevent that kind of return to a full-fledged McCarthyism or some of those sad stages in history when fear won the day,” said Lafferty.
Lafferty believes the fear mongering in the media is partly to blame. Leopold agrees, also pointing a finger at our nation’s leaders, for using the September 11 terror attacks, as an excuse to create laws which repress dissent and violate the Constitution.
“Democrats and Republican went along with it and the public fell into lockstep with it,” said Leopold. “The public is quickly being desensitized and they also feel like they’re powerless. What can they possibly do about it,” he added.
As Miller fights his latest legal battle, he’s convinced police tactics in fighting terror will ultimately backfire.
“It gets to the point when we have an issue and need a police officer, why call a police officer,” said Miller. “They’ve lost credibility and when police lose credibility, then they’ve lost everything,” he added.
What started as a simple way to express and proclaim his innocence, Miller now uses his blog to tell similar stories and continue his crusade of “Freedom of Photography.”