I met up with a few friends about 9 p.m. on a Friday night to ride a boat on the Riverwalk. I had no clue my civil rights would be violated within two hours.
As a photojournalist, I take my camera everywhere; Oct. 17 would not be different.
After my friends and I took the river tour, we walked to HemisFair Park and then walked back toward the Alamo.
We ended up on Commerce Street and decided to walk west toward a club. Around 10:45 p.m., we passed the McDonald’s at Commerce and South Alamo Street. Inside I saw a Bexar County Deputy Sheriff pushing a man with one hand cuffed out the door.
The handcuffed man was pleading with the deputy, “Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this? I was going to the bathroom before I ordered food. Why are you doing this?”
My instincts kicked in and I pulled out my camera to document the arrest. My camera had a 70-200mm lens attached from an earlier assignment so I quickly changed the lens to my wide angle 24-70 mm lens.
As I finished my lens swap, I saw the deputy had the man’s hands cuffed in front of him and had cornered him between a railing and the entrance. The deputy then extended his collapsible baton and looked as if he was going to strike the man.
I began to move my camera so I could get a picture of the deputy when he looked at me and saw the camera. The deputy quickly pushed the head of his baton into the ground, collapsing it and then put it away.
I hadn’t taken any pictures yet when the deputy said to me, “You need to leave.”
Knowing I was well within my rights, I confidently stated, “I am a press photographer; I am far enough away to not interfere and I know I have the right to photograph you.”
I knew I was far enough away because I was farther away than the deputy was allowing others to stand.
The deputy demanded I step toward him and said I had to have credentials to photograph him. I told him that is not true, I don’t have to have credentials, but I showed him my membership card from the National Press Photographers Association.
He looked at the card and said, “Oh, you are only a student.”
He then demanded I show him my Texas state-issued ID. I asked the deputy, “Do you suspect me of a crime?”
He said, “No.”
“I do not have to show you my ID then. Am I free to go?”
“You are not free to go,” he said. “You have to show me your ID. If you don’t, I am going to arrest you for failure to ID. Let me see your ID.”
“That is not true,” I insisted. “Do you suspect me of a crime?”
Again he said, “No.”
I repeated, “I do not have to show you my ID. Am I free to go?”
We repeated this dialogue several more times.
The deputy then told me I did not know my rights, did not know what I was talking about and yet again threatened to arrest me.
I told the deputy I did not have to show him my ID, I knew he was lying to me and I informed him I don’t even have a Texas state-issued ID.
He said it is illegal to not have one and he could arrest me for that, too.
I stood up for myself saying, “It is not illegal for me to not have an ID; this isn’t Nazi Germany. You are not Gestapo. I do not have to have an ID.”
“What are you talking about?” the deputy asked. “We aren’t communists.”
“Neither were the Nazis,” I retorted.
Like a broken record, he returned to repeating his mantra: You do not know your rights, I’ll arrest you if you do not show your ID, and it is illegal to not carry an ID.
The deputy then asked “Why are you nervous?”
“Because you are being aggressive,” I said.
He denied being aggressive, but once again threatened to arrest me if I didn’t show him my ID.
I felt as if he was trying to provoke me and I recognized I was becoming agitated so in a calm voice I told the deputy, “I know I do not have to show you my ID, and I have nothing further to say to you.”
The deputy repeatedly began to say, “Show me your ID.” He was a step or so higher than me and in my personal space.
I remained silent.
At this point, my friends began to say “You have to show him your ID.” “Just show him your ID so we can go.”
Now I had to tell them I do not have to show him my ID, the deputy is lying and I am within my rights.
Finally, the deputy said to me, “I am not letting you go until I have your date-of-birth and a contact number.”
I had given the deputy a quarter hour already so I told him my DOB and phone number. I never showed him an ID card.
A few minutes later he also released the man in cufflinks, who thanked me.
I was able to stand up for myself because I knew my rights. I learned about how to interact with law-enforcement because of a personal decision to know and exercise my rights.
I also had learned from COMM 1316, News Photography 1, about my rights as a photographer. These rights extend to all photographers, not just press.
Anything visible in public is fair game for a photographer.
If you do not know your rights, an officer — or any authority figure — can easily take advantage of you and use your ignorance in their favor.