As a good photographer, I sought out the rally at the Chinese embassy on Connecticut Avenue today. In case you were driving by and were curious what all those people just south of the Woodley Park Metro were hollering about, it has to do with the rights and freedom of the Tibetan people. Tibet has been occupied by China since 1959 and has been subject to many violent instances, including what you have been reading about in the news recently.
Like I said, I figured there would be a big rally there, so I made my way down there and was snapping pictures of the crowd when I noticed that someone had thrown red paint at the embassy earlier. I crossed the street to get a few pictures of that and was approached by two uniformed Secret Service officers who informed me that I was not allowed to photograph the embassy or even be on that side of the street.
I have been through this before with other law enforcement officers. The difference this time was that the lady and her male partner were polite when they stopped me, even if they did lie about my rights.
I explained that I was on public property, it being a sidewalk, and that I was within my rights to be there and photograph the building. After about a minute of back-and-forth, they could see that I was not budging and after examining my press credentials, they determined that I really was a journalist, or perhaps that I simply knew my rights, and left me alone, but not without some huffing and puffing about crowd control. They were determined to have the last word, even if the words were ultimately empty.
Okay, I get that the police need to keep order and make sure that nobody does stupid stuff and to ensure that a peaceful rally like this does not turn violent, but to me, photography is not a very threatening activity. If there had been a “do not cross” tape set up, that would be different.
When are we going to learn that photographers are not the problem? When is the last time you were told by police that you weren’t allowed to take pictures of something or walk on a public sidewalk?
Photo: Secret Service Officer, Tibetan Independence Rally
Originally uploaded by carlweaver
See more photos of this event here.