For too many cops and security guards, the enemy wields a camera.
He claims that McKinniss may have gone to the refinery that night as part of a "set-up," a suspicion based on "the [civil rights] attorneys representing him."
Acciani explains that there is stepped-up scrutiny around the country. "This comes from the top, right from President Bush," he says. "The Department of Homeland Security, as part of the war on terror, is begging for local law enforcement to be the backbone of this effort. Cops on the street are the ones to gather the intelligence. They have to keep their eyes and ears to the ground."
And to the water. Photographer Jonathan Smith received a grant in 2004 from the Design Trust for Public Space to shoot all 14 major bridges to New York City. He's been stopped and told many times by the police, incorrectly, that it's illegal to photograph bridges. (Photographing on a bridge, a safety or traffic flow issue, is another story.)
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Smith, a native of England, was ordered off Roosevelt Island, a heavily developed spit of land next to Manhattan, for shooting the Queensborough Bridge. He was even hauled to an MTA station next to the Throgs Neck Bridge in the Bronx. "When the officer stopped me, I said I was a tourist, and he asked, 'Did you take a picture of the bridge? Come with me,'" Smith recalls.
On escalating tension between police and photographers, a New York City Police Department spokesperson explains, "We live in a world where everyone is suspicious of photography. Generally, anything in a public place can be photographed. But there's a difference between taking a picture and taking surveillance, and our officers have to determine where that line is."
The NYPD spokesperson adds that many such encounters are instigated by tips from the public.
Meanwhile, a lot of spin fills the void of photographers' ignorance of their rights. It's easy to understand why certain parts of Department of Defense facilities are off-limits, but that reasonable rule swelled into an unwritten photo ban on all federal buildings.
"This is one of the biggest myths with the law of taking photographs," explains Bert Krages, a Portland, OR-based copyright attorney who has written books on photographers' rights and techniques. "There is no general prohibition against photographing federal buildings. There are statutes that prohibit photographing areas of military and nuclear facilities. But there are no laws against photographing other federal facilities, other than the right of all property owners to restrict activities that take place on their property. A federal office building manager cannot restrict photography when the photographer is situated outside the federal property boundary."