04
Jan
09

War on Photography – Jan 4 2009 Edition (Updated)

Stories like this just piss me off. Its yet another example of police abusing their powers by making up anti-photography laws on the spot, usually because of 9/11 or terrorism.

Right.

That’s why this police shooting at the Fruitvale BART station is so infuriating. The official story is that police broke up a fight between two groups and that one of the officer’s weapons accidentally “discharged” while they were questioning the men, killing one, Oscar Grant. The witnesses tell a different story. They said that the doomed man was handcuffed behind his back and on his belly when one of the officers shot him in the back. The bullet passed through his body, ricocheted off the floor and re-entered his belly.

Anyone who’s ever taken BART should immediately be asking themselves why what happened is a mystery since there are surveillance cameras in every station, including on the platform. Except that according to BART, those cameras are for monitoring only and are not capable of recording anything.

Riiiiiight.

So here we have a situation where witnesses’ and the police accounts differ significantly, and there’s a man dead at the hands of the police. There are cameras everywhere, but they’re apparently useless. There’s an investigation, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the officer will be found to have applied appropriate force and suffer no consequences, just like pretty much every other time a cop murders someone.

But the real reason why I’m pissed about the Amtrak story is because of what wasn’t mentioned in the Chronicle stories, but was mentioned in the Kron (SF Channel 4) piece: the police confiscated cell phones and cameras from people in the crowd. Cops lie, witnesses can lie, be intimidated or be simply mistaken, but pictures don’t. Especially when multiple pictures and videos from several sources at different angles all tell the same story. As much as governments and corporations want to use cameras to watch us, it is those same cameras, in the public’s hands that can hold those with power accountable for their actions, and THAT’S why there’s a war on photography. It has nothing to do with terrorists, but with abusive and corrupt officials knowing that they can’t act with impunity as long as people are there recording them.

I know from personal experience that the mere act of pointing a camera at people can cause them to behave differently. But there’s a difference from people not making complete stops at a stop sign in the middle of the night and a badged officer of the law, armed with a deadly weapon and baked with the power of the state and the authority to take your freedom away deciding to abuse that power. That’s why we need to keep our cameras out and pointed at power.

UPDATED 21:00

Well, well, well. It would seem as if the cops didn’t get all of the passenger videos, because one of them got out and guess what? It shows the cop in question shooting Grant in the back while trying to handcuff him. Of course, BART Police are “seriously investigating.” Somehow, I still think its going to be ruled a good shooting with no consequences whatsoever. On the other hand, it seems as if the only way the truth would ever come out was through citizens recording police abuses. Another shocker there.

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1 Response to “War on Photography – Jan 4 2009 Edition (Updated)”


  1. January 4, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    I know nothing about the cameras in the stations, but more than half of the “cameras” in the BART cars are just blinking LED’s powered by 2 D-Cell batteries.


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