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Is Denver turning into a police state?

It sometimes gets hard to keep up with all the police abuse caught on camera sweeping the country these days, especially because I’ve been busy with loads of other projects, so I’ll leave you with the above two videos involving Denver police that are making the rounds t



It sometimes gets hard to keep up with all the police abuse caught on camera sweeping the country these days, especially because I’ve been busy with loads of other projects, so I’ll leave you with the above two videos involving Denver police that are making the rounds throughout the country.

The first video was shot by a surveillance camera outside the Denver Police Department shows a cop beating a 23-year-old man talking on a cell phone for no apparent reason. The camera coincidentally swings away from the beating but not before we see the damage.

The victim turned out to be the son of Pueblo County Sheriff deputy Anthony Herrera.

The second video shows a 32-year-old man beaten by two Denver police officers after he was taking photos of a traffic investigation.

Both officers, identified by Hart as John Diaz and Jeff Cook, approached Ashford and grabbed him, pushing him backward into a bridge railing and wrestling him to the ground. The officers attempted to punch and twist the camera out of Ashford’s hand. Ashford was shoved into the pavement by the officers and handcuffed.

“They just basically manhandled him,” Hart said.

Hart said Ashford was taken by ambulance to St. Anthony Central Hospital and treated for a cut on his right eye and a concussion.

He was arrested on suspicion of “interference and resistance,” but charges were eventually dropped, Hart said.

Then there is a third incident, which has not been reported in the media, that involves a man who has harassed by U.S. Marshal in Denver. The man wrote to Photography is Not a Crime seeking advice.

I’ve been very busy so I’ll just cut and paste the email in its entirety sans his name and ask our readers to advise.

I recently came across your website while trying to research my rights when photographing.  I live in Denver and have been walking around the city the last couple of weeks photographing buildings and the city before work and usually on my lunch hour.  We have some incredible court house buildings in the city here and I’ve been meaning to get some pictures of them, so I finally did this morning.  Photography has been a hobby of mine in the past and I recently borrowed my Dad’s DSLR to re-explore the hobby.  So this morning I walked a few blocks from where I work, photographing along the way, and headed toward the court houses.  There are several buildings right by each other and the first few that I photographed I had no problem at. The 3rd building I went to (just across the street from the first two), I was photographing an entrance when a man dressed in nice pants and a blazer stepped out.  He said something to me, but down the steps from the building, on the sidewalk where I was standing was too far to be able to hear him. I put the camera down and asked what he said. He looked at me for a minute then starting coming down the steps toward me.  I will try to re-tell the story to the best of my recollection, but will warn you that I have a very bad memory and have trouble recalling details. I should emphasize, nothing below is made up, but I may mis-remember the order in which things occurred or exact wording, though I’ll do my best.

Continuing on, the gentlemen who came out of the building (which was the “Federal Building U.S. Custom House” according to the sign above the door), came down to where I was standing on the sidewalk and asked who I was with. I told him nobody. He told me that I could not take pictures there. I asked why not and he told me that it was against the law. I asked what law I was breaking and he told me it was illegal to photograph a federal building. Again, I asked if he could tell me which law it was that said I couldn’t do this.  It was about this point he asked for my ID. I told him that he did not need to see my ID as I had not done anything wrong. He then sort of swiped his finger across a pin on his jacket that said “U.S. Marshall” and said that’s why he could see my ID. I told him I wasn’t going to show him my ID and again asked what law I was breaking. Again he asked who I worked for and I said nobody. He asked what I was taking pictures for and I said myself. I said “I’m just a photographer” by which I meant I’m a hobbyist, though I realize now I should have chosen better wording. At this point he had an “A-ha!” moment. Thinking he had caught me in my lie he asserted “I asked you before you who worked for!” and again I told him “I don’t work for anybody. I just take photographs as a hobby.”  He continued to insist I was breaking the law and as I’m not good with confrontation, at this point my legs were shaking pretty bad.  After this going back and forth for a bit he asked me if I would like to be detained, to which I said no. I told him I wasn’t trying to cause problems, but just that I didn’t understand what law I was breaking. He reached his hand down to his side, pushing back his blazer, and placed his hand on his handcuffs, at this point trying to intimidate me into walking away. I said something to the effect of “Sir, I would encourage you to check with your superiors-” and he cut me off saying “Sure, we can check with them while I detain you. Would you like to be detained?” and began to pull out his radio with his other hand.  I said “No, sir. I’m leaving. But I encourage you to check with your superiors on this matter so that they can clarify the law for you. I’m just trying to help you out.” and as I walked away he said to me “You’re not helping me, you’re helping yourself here.” I believe trying to imply that by walking away I was doing myself a favor.

I tried to remain as cordial as possible throughout this interaction, but couldn’t help my voice from shaking the whole time from my nervousness.  I addressed him as sir and didn’t even attempt to take pictures of him during the encounter, or while he was walking down the steps at the beginning (mostly from fear that he might knock the camera out of my hands or take it… again, this isn’t my camera).  Yet this man insisted on being intimidating and coarse with me the entire time, refusing to check with a superior about the alleged “law” he was enforcing unless I wanted to be detained, and could not explain to me what law he might be enforcing or why he was enforcing it.  I intend to go back, but wanted to seek your advice.  My thinking is that I will go back with one or two other individuals who can photograph and video record any encounter we might have.  My main concern this morning was that if something happened, I didn’t have anybody with me to record the incident or act as a witness, and there wasn’t really anybody around walking on the streets that I had noticed.  As you can see from Google Street view ( http://bit.ly/bpp3uJ ) this is a really cool building and one that I believe the public would love to be able to photograph.  But with security who treats people like this, most citizens are being robbed of this right.  Any thoughts on what my best course of action is?  Also, are you aware of any law that would prohibit me from photographing an individual in this case? If I’m on a public sidewalk and photograph a government employee who is coming toward me (Colorado is a one party state for wiretapping, by the way), is there any legal reason I am not allowed to do so? I Just want to make sure I don’t accidentally break any laws while trying to assert my rights.

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