Protest, Riot and Police Photography
I'm off to the side of the police line were it's much safer and offers these sort of shots. Although you can get great shots in the middle, all the "in your face" action combined with the pepper spray makes it difficult to hold a camera still (I've tried). This is Tri-X at 1600 with a 50mm f1:8 lens.
Although there was a permit for people to be in the street at the LEIU, the police were very assertive at removing people. This shot was shortly after a small riot.
This is the start of a big push by the cops. There is a car seperating me from the small riot so I'm quite safe taking a shot like this.
Don't forget to look up when you're in the street or you'll miss some interesting pictures. You'll also often find cops with video cameras.
Watch out for snatch squads! This guy was dragged over the railing in the foreground. It's rare for a snatch squad go after a photographer (in my experience, it's the lone cop that goes for the camera but even that is rare.) Being middle aged and dressing conservative will help from being harassed.
If you look down side streets away from a main group you'll sometimes find cops walking around with assault rifles. I like to go for a walk about outside a main protest area to see what I can find. More likely than not, there are many more cops in an area than people realize at a political protest.
This riot cop kept screaming for people to disperse but no one would listen to him. This is about two seconds after he pushed me back (I had a right to be there). A riot cop will almost never make an arrest when he/she is by themself. You should assert yourself but never provoke.
Tasers are a very efficient way to take someone down but someone twitching on the ground in the street and in agony is bad PR. I've only seen tasers actually used away from crowds and media.
A multi-launch grenade launcher is the fastest way to clear a street. I had one fired at me during the 1999 WTO riots. They work.
A guy being arrested in DC.
Think that press badge will keep you from being arrested? This is an AP photographer being hauled away. A mass arrest took place and all the media within a certain area were also put under arrest. I always stay outside of police lines that start forming if I get the feeling that a mass arrest will take place.
This is a videographer after being hit just below her left eye with a club. Right after this shot people got in between the two to keep the confrontation from escalating. The cop knows that he just screwed up.
This is the military trying to sneak into a building where an IMF conference is being held (due to other events, it's likely the case that I was the only photographer within 3 or 4 blocks). It's legal for the National Gaurd to perform law enforcement duties.
A stand off like this will create a media feeding frenzy!
You have the right in America to take a picture of anything you want from a public place (except some defence installations and reasonable expectation of privacy). This is the Secret Service(?) checking me out as I was taking pictures of a communications van. The agent got within ten feet, I nodded to him and then he left me alone. Know your rights as a photographer!
A very stupid cop (NYPD) giving me the finger. This shows a gross lack of discipline on the cop's part. For large political events it's common to bring in outside help.
You must assume that any political protest is being closely monitored. Surveillance was rapant at the 2002 G8 conference in Calgary.
Cops down a side street zooming in.
Yet more surveillance of protestors.
Cops standing around after a mass arrest. Notice the undercover cop. I never get to close in a shot like this (this is a cropped 200mm 35mm equiv), they might still be in an arresting mood.
Protesting the 2002 LEIU conference held in the Red Lion Inn in dowtown Seattle. The LEIU (Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit) is a private "co-op" of various police intelligence units. Being "private" there is no public accountability. They work closely with the FBI.
MP unit commander posing for me. This is the correct and disciplined way for authority figures to react to an activist photographer. Let him/her get the shot then he/she will go away. The military does not like to deal with US citizens in these sort of cases, it's very bad PR if things go wrong (he was a very nice person though).
A few cops actually stood aside so that I could get a nice shot. This is the benefit of acting like a professional and not like a hot headed activist!
MP national gaurd unloading from trucks and moving into the IMF conference building. I spent about 10 minutes to get all of the shots I wanted. Due to PR concerns (and probably orders), the last thing this group will do is interfere with me.
Cops at a Seattle 2003 anti-war event. The biggest complaint I hear from cops is the boredom and the lack of creativity in some of the chants! They like the over-time pay though.
Dangerous protestors leading a march!
Although there was no permit for people to be in the street (Calgary G8 2002), the cops allowed things like this to happen and there were no arrests. There would have been lots of pepper spray flying if this were Seattle.... This is a very rational move on the authorities part as arrests and riots tend to get the media attention at a lot of large political/economic conferences instead of the message that the political/economic entity is trying to put out.
This is an extreme crop of Tri-X at 1600. Although the shotgun is loaded with "less lethal" ammunition, close "less lethal" shotgun blasts are quite deadly.
I sure wish that the cops would be required to clean up after their horses. That's a slipping hazard!
A cop watching over a crowd. Very Orwellian....
Sometimes cops over react with their large presence. There was no arrests in this group but this shows a prior restraint on 1st Amendement rights by not allowing people to peacefully protest.
The media (to include corporate and indy) got so hung up on the action that was happening in one area most didn't notice that they were being surrounded by a ring of cops. Everyone in this ring was arrested. You've got to get the shot but always be aware of when you're being ringed in and be sure you don't get caught in the ring. Sometimes a press badge won't get you free. (I accidently had my DiMAGE 7 on iso 800).
SPD does surveillance on protestors
Since videotaping protestors is kind of touchy for the SPD to do (given their history), they often have other agencies do it.
This is the SPD Special Deployment Unit. They will shadow a protest while conducting surveillance.
Police photographer from Redmond, WA. I've seen him at several Seattle events taking pictures of all of the protestors to include a pro labor march put on by WA state public employees.
Canadian foreign service officers protesting at the G8 conference.
Surveillance van driver at the 2002 G8. Although taking pictures of undercover cops can be a felony in Canada, this officer is clearly identifying himself as a policeman.
This is what a surveillance van looks like. It has a microwave video feed system on top.