Eric Spiegel was walking through Alexandria, Virginia, taking random shots of people for part of his street photography series when he came across the man in the above photo.
Spiegel snapped a quick photo and started on his way.
But the man leaped up and grabbed his arm, demanding he delete the image.
This is how Spiegel explains it on his blog:
As soon as I stood up to continue walking he leaped up and angrily grabbed my left arm while interrogating me. He wanted to know why I took his picture, who I was, what I was doing, etc. I didn’t really get a chance to answer him because my adrenaline soared in response.
I raised my voice to his level and told him to get his hands off me. I told him what he was doing was assault. But he didn’t seem to care and continued demanding me to answer his questions and to delete the photo or to give him my camera.
I stood my ground refusing to give into his demands and continued to tell him he was assaulting me and that I was calling the police. As I tried to fumble with my phone, I spotted a police officer sitting in his cruiser no more than 25 feet from us. So I walked over to the officer as this guy still held onto my arm.
Now it’s always risky approaching a cop in these situations because you never know if they’re going to side with you or the person assaulting you.
It seems strange, but it happens.
Fortunately, the cop did the right thing.
Immediately the officer jumped out of his cruiser and verbally cut down this man. The officer furiously explained that what the man was doing was assault and that I could press charges. The man let go of me and explained that I took his photo without asking and that’s why he grabbed me. The officer then asked him one simple question: “Were you in a public place when he took your photo?” The man responded that he was and the officer proceeded to explain that I had every right to photograph him while he was in public and that he has no expectation of privacy when he is in a public place.
At this point I was extremely relieved that the police understood the law regarding public photography and that they were on my side. Once the man realized that I could have him arrested he changed his attitude, slightly. I told the police that if the man was willing to apologize to me and that he understood that grabbing someone because they took your photo was wrong, then I wouldn’t press charges. The man flippantly apologized and began to walk away.
This blew the officer’s top. At this point the officer pulled out his handcuffs and told the man to never to walk away from an officer and that he would handcuff him if he didn’t cooperate. The man decided to cooperate and the officer then asked for our IDs to write up a report.
Spiegel said he may have regretted pressing charges, but it’s probably not worth the hassle considering he wasn’t hurt nor was his camera damaged.
A few years ago, I was assaulted by a security guard in front of a Miami Cuban restaurant during a protest and police asked if I wanted to file charges. I declined to the dismay of many of my friends.
The best lesson these people can learn is to have their photos plastered all over the internet.