But the police officers are not happy to have their own photographs taken.
Two Isthmus employees — web editor Kristian Knutsen and design artist David Michael Miller — were warned this week that they were “obstructing” police officers while taking pictures in the public space.
David Erwin, Capitol Police chief, would not talk to an Isthmus reporter — he referred questions to a Department of Administration spokesperson and then abruptly hung up the phone. Stephanie Marquis, the Department of Administration spokesperson, did not respond to phone calls or an email on Thursday afternoon seeking comment.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, taking photos and recording video of police officers in public is a constitutional right.
Knutsen was photographing protesters on Wednesday, when he noticed three police officers, one with a video camera, recording the events. He says he began to take photographs of them because it was “a striking scene. It’s visually interesting.”
Other people on the scene also began taking pictures of police. The officer with the video camera responded, Knutsen says, by training his camera on these observers.
While acknowledging that police have as much a right as anyone to take pictures inside the Capitol, Knutsen adds, “When they’re repeatedly pointing a camera at someone’s face, that’s intimidation.”
When Knutsen asked the officer with the camera for his name and badge number, another officer warned that he was “obstructing” their work.
Around the same time on Wednesday, a legal observer with the ACLU was threatened with obstruction for watching police in action and attempting to obtain names and badge numbers of officers. (Watch a video of the observer recounting her experience.)
What’s going on at the Capitol should bother anyone who values our Constitutionally-protected rights to free speech & free assembly. What’s more, the heavy-handed actions and rhetoric coming from Capitol Police officers is simply uncalled for and frankly it’s more along the lines of something I’d expect to find in a two-bit dictatorship.