All Gabriel Lopez-Bernal needed was for a police officer to harass him and he would have earned the Triple Crown Photo Frisk Award.
After all, the Miami blogger says he was harassed by both a rent-a-cop and a U.S. Marshal on Monday for the sole crime of standing on a public sidewalk and photographing the Federal Courthouse Building in downtown Miami.
In fact, he came close to being harassed by a police officer after a civilian pedestrian who had walked into his picture frame became irate at being photographed and reported him to the police. Apparently, this woman is unaware of all the public surveillance cameras in downtown.
The officer only shrugged, destroying a golden opportunity for Lopez-Bernal to win the Triple Crown Photo Frisk Award that day, which traditionally goes to photographers whose First Amendment rights are violated by three different levels of authority during a single photo shoot. Unfortunately, the award has declined in value in recent years after a surge of intolerance against photographers made it almost too easy to win.
Had he really wanted to win that award, he could have simply photographed that officer, but he had better things to do than spend a night in jail, which would probably have affected his upcoming confrontation with the U.S. Marshal (motto: Don’t let me catch you having a bipolar episode on a commercial airliner).
Lopez-Bernal, a Miami native and UF student, operates Transit Miami, which he describes as “a local website dedicated to discussing the transportation and urban planning problems that face our region.” In other words, he does what three decades of corrupt politicians have failed to do.
Exchange with Fed was “consensual”
On Monday, as Lopez-Bernal was hitting the downtown pavement with his camera, documenting the ever expanding and ever exploiting growth of our city’s core, he was able to ignore the crazy lady and the rent-a-cop, but the Federal Marshal finally caught up to him, asking for his identification.
According to Lopez-Bernal, the Fed stated the following with Lopez-Bernal’s thoughts in parenthesis:
“You just have to understand sir in this new state of security (insecurity) in the United States; we can never be too secure. Just the other day, we had someone taking counter-surveillance shots of our prisoner movements (Buuuuuuuullshit) from the metrorail platform.”
Metrorail platform? That sounds familiar.
Although the Fed’s actions come dangerously close to violating Lopez-Bernal’s Fourth Amendment Rights, which supposedly protects us against unreasonable invasions of privacy by the government, this case law study indicates the Fed acted within the law because he simply asked for, not demanded, Lopez-Bernal’s ID (And yes, I am fully aware that law enforcement officers never really ask, even when they do end a statement with a question mark).
The Fed ended up writing down Lopez-Bernal’s information from his driver license, meaning there is a good chance the Fed can further pry into his personal life. It is not clear from the case law (at least not at this ungodly hour) on whether this action would constitute a Fourth Amendment violation.
Because Lopez-Bernal was not actually committing a crime or even acting suspicious (photographing a building is protected by the First Amendment), the exchange between the two was completely consensual, meaning Lopez-Bernal had the right not to provide an ID.
In fact, he even had the right to continue walking away from the Fed, even turning around and snapping a few farewell shots of Big Brother.
But had he done that, he would have been unable to report this story to us in such a timely manner.156