Georgia Woman Reportedly Detained For Taking Photo Of Ground Zero

Earlier today, I posted another case out of Illinois where an officer arrested a citizen for recording him in public — only to have the charges later dropped without any disciplining of the officer. Now in New York city we have another alleged case where an officer detains a citizen over public videotaping — not of him, mind you, but of ground zero. Meredith Dodson of Georgia says that Officer Mark DeSimone not only detained her but became threatening with her and other citizens who objected to his arbitrary action over her taking a photo of the famous site.

Dodson visited ground zero on September 22nd and stopped to take a photo on the long pathway that leads in and out of the site.

Here is how she describes the encounter:

Immediately the officer called me over to him. He asked me why I would take a picture like that in a tone that was extremely aggressive. I responded as politely as possible: “because I am visiting the memorial and surrounding area.” He asked for my license and I promptly gave it to him. He began writing my personal information on a small very unofficial notepad. I asked why I was being detained. He would not answer my question, but only asked again why I would take a picture like that and demanded to see the photo. I showed him the image and responded again that I was visiting the memorial.

I said “I didn’t know that there were areas that photography was not allowed. I am still in the fenced-in area of the memorial. There are no signs posted that say no photography. If photography was not allowed in some of the areas that the tourists are allowed, there would be opaque fences instead of transparent mesh or signs posted saying no photography allowed. Most of the area is construction. I was exploring the memorial because I wanted to see how the site was transformed. I have great respect for the new construction of the memorial.” I then offered to delete the photo, however, the officer did not reply, but continued to act aggressively towards me.

She says the DeSimone became increasing loud and aggressive, particularly when a third party asked for his card and then, when refused, said he was going to take a picture of his badge and name tag. She said the officer then “yelled at my friend to stop taking his photo and that he would arrest us all for trespassing.” He then ordered the other individuals to leave or face arrest.

The officer continued to berate me and stood within inches of my face to yell at me and say how he had lost many friends on 911 and he just barely survived and how he was protecting the area from terrorists. He asked me where I was from (I said Georgia) and he said he was from Alabama and that I should know not to take pictures through a mesh. I said I didn’t know about a no photography rule for inside the area. I was crying by this point and asked why I was still being detained and was I begin charged with anything.

He did not answer my question and continued to threaten me by saying that he would do a background check and that he could arrest us and charge my friends and me with trespassing. He said that “my friends are assholes” and that if they came back there would be problems. I didn’t understand why he was continuing to be so aggressive towards me. My husband and friend had already left the area (about 50 feet away) and I was certainly not being anything but polite to him. I didn’t even know why he was threatening me with these things especially since I had already had the background check to be allowed into the area. I signed up for tickets two weeks prior and was still in the cordoned area where all the tourists were. I didn’t even attempt to go into an area that I wasn’t allowed. I took a picture from inside the visitor area.

It is an account that is all to familiar to people on this blog. Citizens are often detained or jailed only to have charges dropped. The message is the same: I can put you in jail or hold you if you dare videotape me or take pictures that I do not like. The result is the creation of an intentional chilling effect.

The Gothamist called a spokesman for the memorial who gave them the following mixed message: “There are no rules against photography on the site unless it poses some security risk.” So there are no rules against photography unless people like this officer view it as a security risk? What does that mean? What is the standard for citizens to use to determine if they will be detained? The statement seems calculated to leave uncertainty for citizens and, as a result, empower officers who arbitrary decide some photos or photographers are a risk. It is an invitation for abuses ranging from capricious harassment to profiling.

Source: Gothamist

21 thoughts on “Georgia Woman Reportedly Detained For Taking Photo Of Ground Zero”

  1. leejcarroll thats is exactly what this country is coming to and much worse. watch how 2012 evolves. not only do we pay their salaries but we pay for them to abuse us. and when there are citizens with the means to hire private lawyers WHO ARENT IN CAHOOTS or afraid of the cops files a lawsuit we also get to pay for that. the cops pay for nothing ever neither does the union so there is nothing in force to stop the police corruption or abuse. not even the thought of jail

  2. Hopefully these are solely anecdotal instances and not indicative of institutionalized policies or what this country may be becoming.

  3. What happened to her then? Yelled at, humiliated, entire trip ruined by Tony Baloney II and then what?
    Make the officer cite the statute. Of course normally cops actually care what the law is.
    Maybe the bystanders needed to call 911, ask for assistance and hold up the phone – all 911 calls are saved and then the NYPD can’t ignore it.

    911 calls – “A 911 call made by a Summerlin Costco employee captures police shouting orders to 39-year-old Erik Scott before the U.S. Military Academy graduate was shot and killed, according to Las Vegas police.”

    911 calls – “Apparently 911 calls are recorded even while the phone is ringing, so the police officer heard her say it. When the officer answered the call, he was only interested in the fact that the girl said “fuck” and wouldn’t help the girl. Instead, he swears at her and hangs up. “

  4. Thanks for posting this. The right to take photos, to video, needs constant protection. Let’s all stay in touch with reality, however occasionally or briefly.

    “They got bailed out, we got sold out”.

  5. so now it’s unlawful for tourists to take photographs of tourist destinations.

    send Officer Mark DeSimone to disney world. tell him to bring his spare handcuffs

  6. Culheath, When the three-strikes law was first passed (when and where ever that was, I forget) the better half and I were both members on a local bulletin board (BB’s tended to be pretty uptight at that time) so the better half posted that it was a dumb law, someone with some pot in his trunk and a couple of minor crimes under his belt was just going to shoot the cop that did a traffic stop on him. The better half was vilified. I don’t recall if he was banned or just moved on but he never posted there again. So… less than 60 days later exactly that happened and the perp explained it as a response to the three-strikes law. I still had my membership on that BB so I got the last word on the controversy. Hehehe, it was sweet.

    I to see the possibility of critical mass being reached in response to an entirely failed justice system, if not generally then certainly individually.

  7. The best defense against police abuse in a democracy is more cameras and the courts.

    This is a vid of a Brit TV show- Stephen Frye- and a mini discussion on American prisons. The looks on the faces of a couple of his guests is amazing, we walk around like our justice system is ‘normal’ and it’s not, not at all. The cops are just the first layer of interface with that system that most of us see. That system doesn’t get more benign as the level of authority increases. They are the pulse of the system.

    From a BoingBoing article:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPZed8af9RI&feature=player_embedded#!

  8. At some point people are going to take abusive cops out…that’s what I see this eventually headed toward if their superiors keep letting this sort of thing slide.

  9. Perhaps Officer Mark DeSimone should be drug tested for steroid abuse. He seems a little bit too angry to be wearing a badge.

  10. I was planning to be in NYC soon. I was planning on taking my camera. I was planning to take pictures of the World Trade Center Memorial.

    I guess I will not be doing at least one of these things. Will I be treated like I was in the Soviet Union, circa 1965?

    Is this really what we are becoming as a nation? Is this what our police forces will do? Do they really feel justified in treating citizens this way, and will we let them? What are we as a people when an individual with a camera is perceived as a threat only to be harassed, arrested, charged, and jailed by the police?

    How I long for Sheriff Andy of Mayberry.

  11. I wonder if the officer was akin to William T. Sherman….and viewed anyone from Georgia as a Security risk….Other than that, this is BULL……

    Then again, she could be TPWB…..

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