Photographing Architecture is Still Not a Crime, Police Harrasment at 45 Fremont Street
So I know that I write a lot about being harassed for my photography on the streets of San Francisco and for some this story may be getting old. I shoot every day though and at least once or twice a month have a run in with a security guard or authority figure of some sort somewhere. Typically I can resolve these episodes on my own amicably with the individual involved, but sometimes things go over the line. In the past year I’ve blogged about three of these incidents that crossed the line. One was when a security guard at One Bush was following me around the sidewalk trying to put his hand in front of my camera and not allowing me to shoot the building. Another was when the Sheriff’s Department detained me and ran what I consider an illegal background check on me merely for shooting near the train tracks in Oakland. Another was when a particular nasty altercation took place between me and a security guard who came out of 45 Fremont middle finger a’blazin’ to insist that I not shoot that building.
But today’s episode was the worst I’ve encountered so far. Ironically enough, it occurred once again outside of 45 Fremont Street. This was even after I spoke with a PR person from the Shorenstein owned property who apologized to me for my treatment and assured me that I would find a more tolerant atmosphere at that property in the future.
Today, aqui-ali (another local Flickr photographer), helveticaneue (in from out of town) and I went out to do a bit of shooting. Since Aqui had a meeting down on 2nd Street later this afternoon we decided to head that way and shoot the Transbay Terminal. 45 Fremont was in our path and we were shooting some photos of it as we were walking by. It was then that the security guard there told us that we could not shoot the building. When I explained that we were in a public area and had a right to shoot the building he insisted and called another security guard over on his radio who also tried to get us to stop taking pictures of the building. I still refused as it is my right to shoot buildings in San Francisco from a public area.
It was at this point that things went from bad to worse. At this point an individual came over who identified himself as a police officer and told us to get out of the plaza, off the sidewalk and to physically stand on the asphalt in the street where the cars were driving by. When I tried to object this individual (who was significantly larger than me) assaulted me and forcibly grabbed my arm quite hard and pulled me towards the street. When I freed myself from his grip I told him that I was going to take his photograph. He told me that I could not take his photograph and that if I did that I could “watch what would happen to my camera.”
I took his photograph anyways and that is him up there at the top of the story. Once he had us physically on the asphalt in the traffic off the sidewalk I once again asked him for his identification and asked to see his badge. He refused to provide me his identification and refused to show me his badge. It is my understanding that when someone identifies themselves as a police officer that I have a right to see their identification proving this fact. This prevents anyone from falsely impersonating police officers and abusing a false authority. I asked him at least five times to see his badge and he refused. He continued to confer with the security guards at the building though.
I believe that this individual either committed an illegal act by illegally impersonating a police officer or by acting in the capacity of a police officer while refusing to provide me proof or his badge when asked. Worse, he physically assaulted me and threatened me. I’ve even got a bruise and a pretty sore arm where he grabbed me.
This should not happen just because a hobbyist decides to take photographs of a building from a public area on the streets of San Francisco. This was abuse. I do not know in what capacity this individual was working with security at 45 Fremont but they were complicit and also forced us to stand off the sidewalk on the street asphalt. helveticaneue and aqui-ali were both present and witnessed this happening as well.
Update: I just received an email back from my contact from my previous run in with 45 Fremont with The Shorenstein Company who told me that while his security guards witnessed the incident that it was actually the security guards at 50 Beale Street and *not* the Shorenstein guards that I had this problem with today. He also told me that he thinks this “policeman” is a security officer working for a tenant in that building. If anyone knows which tenant that this might be at 50 Beale I’d appreciate that information. I am also going to try and contact management of 50 Beale to hopefully work this situation out.
Update #2: Today I:
1. Filed a police report. The case has been assigned to an Officer O’Reily. I have his phone number and will be checking in with him on the progress. I also confirmed with the desk officer at the Tenderloin Police Station (the closest to my work) that if a citizen requests ID from a police officer that an officer is required to provide it. This officer also told me that it is department policy not to touch someone without first showing your badge. He told me that he did not think that this individual was a police officer and that he did not recognize him.
2. I stopped by the building and spoke with Brad Meyers, the property manager. According to Brad, the individual in the photograph as well as the security guard assisting the individual in the photograph do not work for the building. Brad told me that he believed that the individual who assaulted me worked for Bechtel but did not know his name. Brad also appologized to me for the incident and told me that photography in fact is allowed in the public park area next to 50 Beale St. He said that occasionally protocol will be to have a photographer sign a waiver to release the building from any liability should they injure themselves but that it was not protocol to force photographers into the street as had been done to me. He has put a call in with Bechtel’s security and is going to follow up with me later.
Brad also told me that Bechtel does not own the building but is a tenant.
3. I spoke today with Mike Meehan who is Vice President and Assistant General Council for Allied Barton Security Services, the company that employed the gentleman who originally requested that I not take photographs. Mike is on the East Coast and has put a call in to his West Coast office to try and determine what happened from their perspective. He is going to be in contact with me and will follow up with me on this. I asked him if he would provide me the name of the individual for my police report if he is an employee of their company and he said that he would need to take that under adviseme
Will continue to update with details as available.
In response to my run in with an unidentified individual who identified himself as a police officer, assaulted me and refused to show me identification as a police officer, I received this letter from Bechtel Corporation yesterday.
I have again asked for the name of the individual who identified himself as a police officer and requested Bechtel tell me what if any disciplinary action was taken against this individual.
While Bechtel still refuses to confirm whether or not the individual who harrassed and assaulted me is an employee of theirs, it is probably fair to assume that they would not be sending an apology letter were he not. I will continue to pursue this though and am confident that I will be able to get more information with regards to this case.