More Police Harassment for the “Crime” of Photographing BP’s Offices

Drew Wheelan runs the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Blog. He’s also the conservation coordinator for the American Birding Association. As part of his documentation of the problems around BP’s oil spill, he went down to Houma, LA to try and talk to a safety officer at BP. During his visit he tried to film a segment in front of BP’s offices when he was approached by a police officer who asked for his ID and “strongly” encouraged him to leave the area as BP did not like people filming their offices. He captured part of his exchange with the police officer in the YouTube video above.

While Wheelen insisted on his legal rights to film BP’s offices from off of their property, after he finished he says he was pulled over by the same police officer, this time with a BP security officer in the car.

From Mother Jones:

“It was the same cop, but this time he had company: Kenneth Thomas, whose badge, Wheelan told me, read “Chief BP Security.” The cop stood by as Thomas interrogated Wheelan for 20 minutes, asking him who he worked with, who he answered to, what he was doing, why he was down here in Louisiana. He phoned Wheelan’s information in to someone. Wheelan says Thomas confiscated his Audubon volunteer badge (he’d recently attended an official Audubon/BP bird-helper volunteer training) and then wouldn’t give it back, which sounds like something only a bully in a bad movie would do. Eventually, Thomas let Wheelan go.

“Then two unmarked security cars followed me,” Wheelan told me. “Maybe I’m paranoid, but I was specifically trying to figure out if they were following me, and every time I pulled over, they pulled over.” This went on for 20 miles. Which does little to mitigate my own developing paranoia about reporting from what can feel like a corporate-police state.”

Filming BP’s offices is not a crime and the officer involved should not have followed Wheelen or made an illegal stop and allowed him to be interrogated by BP security. Wheelen was doing nothing illegal and I’m disappointed that taxpayer money would be wasted on the police trying to play PR for BP and harassing photographers trying to legitimately document BP’s role in this horrible environmental disaster. I hope that the cop in question here is both named and disciplined over this incident.

Thanks to Nikki for the heads up!

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  1. Owen Byrne says:

    Presumably you’re following the story coming out of Maryland:

    Summary: Your elected officials are working hard in at least 3 states to fix the problem by making it a crime.

  2. Owen Byrne says:

    Ack, linked to page 2 by mistake.

  3. Rob-L says:

    That’s crazy. Who cares what BP wants? They have no authority in this matter and this cop should have known better. Why don’t police know the basics of the laws they’re supposed to uphold? Unreal. No wonder the police aren’t respected.

  4. […] Article from Mother Jones (via Thomas Hawk) […]

  5. Time for a BP Headquarters Photowalk!

  6. “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Audubon Society?”

    I found out about this post via Trevor’s share on Facebook. Presumably Facebook has captured the identifying information from Trevor and myself. I’ll keep an eye out for Houma, Louisiana police cars… 🙂

  7. Mark says:

    What is goin on here? Who do these guys think they are? Are they paying this policeman? Are we dealing with gangsters here or what? Its craziness!