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  • What’s Wrong With This Picture?

    Posted by Jonathan on September 20th, 2006 (All posts by )

    Tatyana photographs the sidewalk display and storefront of some Muslim missionaries in Brooklyn and gets accosted by the Muslims, who try to intimidate her and call the cops. Instead of telling the Muslims that public photography is legal, the cops defer to them and tell Tatyana to stop stirring up trouble. The Muslims file a harrassment complaint against Tatyana and she files one against them. Tatyana notes that if the missionary follows through on his threat to sue her he will be able to find out where she lives, and notes the implied threat.

    It sounds like Tatyana could use some good legal advice. Perhaps some of our readers in NYC could provide suggestions?

    We weren’t there, of course, but from Tatyana’s description it almost sounds like the NYC police are following a policy of appeasing Muslims to avoid trouble. But of course the cops wouldn’t do that, would they?

    Background:

    First encounter with the Muslim missionaries.

    Second encounter and aftermath.

    UPDATE: I am closing comments on this post. My intent here was to provide some modest publicity for what strikes me as troubling behavior on the part of NY police, and also to provide a venue for constructive suggestions for Tatyana. I am not interested in providing a forum for second-guessing. I think it should go without saying that you should be able to photograph people on a NYC sidewalk without someone screaming at you or calling the cops.

    This would ordinarily be a minor case for anyone who wasn’t involved. However, we are no longer living in ordinary times. One of the first thoughts I had when I read Tatyana’s posts was that this is the kind of event that happens in Europe, and the NY police officers acted as one might expect French or Dutch police to act. By placating the difficult parties they reward and therefore encourage bad behavior. I think it’s important that this kind of mindless, “we don’t want any trouble” response by government functionaries not become the norm in the USA.

     

    23 Responses to “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”

    1. Tatyana Says:

      Thank you so much for posting this, Jonathan.

      I learned about your post from an anonymous commenter (I don’t have trackbacks, so that was fortunate), who said, among other things:

      “Given the unceasing Muslim-bashing on Jonathan’s blog and the right-wing media it shouldn’t surprise you that someone would be a little touchy about the prospect that they were targeted for an attack.”

      I can’t imagine what filters should be put on that person’s eyes, that on seeing the photos I have taken, it wasn’t clear who was attacking whom.

    2. Jim Bennett Says:

      Sounds like a conspiracy to deprive Tatanya of her civil rights to me. That’s a Federal crime.

    3. John Says:

      Tatyana – you might want to check out the Camera Club of New York – they might know someone who specializes in suits against amateur photographers.

    4. Tatyana Says:

      Thank you, John. It didn’t occur to me. I’ll try that.

    5. Jonathan Says:

      That’s a good idea. You might also post an inquiry on photo.net in either the Photojournalism or Street & Documentary forum.

    6. Sulaiman Says:

      With missionaries like these I find it hard to believe that any sane person would convert. Best to ignore them and concentrate on better things this country offers.

    7. John Says:

      I don’t ignore a wasp in the room, I get out a can of RAID.

    8. Jonathan Says:

      Even if these missionaries are ineffective as missionaries, they seem to be effective at intimidating critics, including by use of the legal system. That fact alone makes it worth taking them on, for which Tatyana deserves credit. If they want to be respected by their neighbors they should treat their neighbors with respect, which means tolerating public photography and other lawful behavior even if they don’t like it. If you don’t want people looking at you or taking photos of you in public you probably shouldn’t live in a city.

      If NYC government functionaries do not understand who is in the right in this case then it is worth trying to focus public attention on the issue, particularly because it appears that the police are acting as though the City won’t back them up if they do anything that annoys Muslims. If it is really NYC government policy to placate Muslims, out of some misguided notion that doing so avoids trouble, then that policy deserves wide publicity and discussion.

    9. Anonymous Says:

      Tatyana, I don’t have a lot of money coming in at the moment, but I can spare a few bucks for a defense fund if it comes to a lawsuit. In the spirit of due diligence, I’d want to see some of the official paperwork posted online.

      Jonathan, you write

      Even if these missionaries are ineffective as missionaries, they seem to be effective at intimidating critics, including by use of the legal system.

      Personally, I’d put “missionaries” in quotes. Your evenhandedness is commendable, but I hope our society will face up to the fact that it is infiltrated by people who exploit its decent features in order to destroy it.

      …That fact alone makes it worth taking them on, for which Tatyana deserves credit…

      Considerable credit. I would have been strongly tempted to sidestep the confrontation. Tatyana, I hope you will continue to combine your courage with prudence.

      …If they want to be respected by their neighbors they should treat their neighbors with respect…

      Do they operate on a basis of respect or of fear?

      …If NYC government functionaries do not understand who is in the right in this case…If it is really NYC government policy to placate Muslims, out of some misguided notion that doing so avoids trouble…

      It could very possibly be city policy. Alternatively, these cops could be deciding that the Muslims are more likely to follow through (and create additional work for them) than is Tatyana.

      At a level which I have not yet found a way to articulate, I am outraged that a peaceful citizen like Tatyana has to endure this kind of treatment by alien “missionaries”–who then are supported by the authorities. Outraged.

    10. Sandy P Says:

      And of course the cops couldn’t ask for their green cards if they had any………..

      Or other forms of ID.

    11. Sandy P Says:

      It’s stuff like this that makes on lock and load…………

    12. Tatyana Says:

      Thank you, all, for your kind words (and even offer of financial support).

      * Alien issue: the guy said he and his wife are citizens (although his wife hasn’t been present at the initial incident, somehow she worked herself in with the policemen as the offended party).

      *To tell you the truth, I’m not that courageous as you think; the fact is, the entrance to my building 2 or 3 doors away from that Islamic Center, and it’s really easy to track me down: I go back and forth, esp. on weekends (grocery shopping, dry cleaning, etc), and I live alone. So I don’t feel like Jeanne D’Arc, and I’m very nervous. It’s just sometimes you do things because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to face yourself in the mirror, however stupid and counter-productive it might seem. Couple of people whom I trust already told me I chose a wrong battle. May be so.

      * Official papers: I called the precinct, they said the paper will be ready in 48 hrs after the complaint; so I’m calling back tomorrow.

      I’ll post updates in my journal as soon as I’ll know something new.

      Thanks again.

    13. chel Says:

      I don’t see how the fact that these people were Muslims has anything to do with anything. It sounds to me that this is just a story of two parties acting stubborn, annoying each other, and getting into a spat. Happens all the time.

      And Jonathan said, “it almost sounds like the NYC police are following a policy of appeasing Muslims to avoid trouble.” What? How did you get that from this one incident. I mean you could just as easily draw the conclusion NYC police are following a policy of anti-photography, or limiting the rights of Russian immigrants, or appeasing sidewalk vendors.

      I also don’t understand why there is any more of an “implied threat” here as far as Tatyana’s address being discovered through a lawsuit than there would be in any other situation where one party sues another.

      C’mon Jonathon.

    14. chel Says:

      That was my answer to your question “What’s wrong with this picture?” Also, sorry for spelling your name wrong at the end of my comment Jonathan.

    15. Enoch Says:

      Appears to be an infestation of carpenter ants. Lots of saw dust scattered round and plenty of tunnels in the wood. Hmmmm! Raid ain’t gonna do the job. Only an edict deporting these parasites will do the trick.

    16. Jonathan Says:

      The fact that they are Muslims is notable for two reasons: 1) because they made it an issue and 2) because this minor quarrel resembles many public quarrels that Muslims have precipitated recently. And they did precipitate it: all Tatyana was doing was taking photos. What’s wrong with taking photos? You don’t have a right to prevent people you don’t like from taking photos of you in public. These people are trying to control their neighbors in a way that is distinctly un-American.

      The implied threat is clear. T is a woman living alone, the missionaries are hostile and have friends and the cops don’t want to get involved.

    17. Tatyana Says:

      chel, you could make any of those conclusions on one condition: if “sensitivity to Muslims” wasn’t mentioned. Since that was the main direction of the officer’s speech, and that there was nothing said about “rights of Russian immiigrants” or street vendors (wher did you find those? there were no street vendors present at all) etc, you better bury your strawman.

      I agree, Islam or imaginary offenses to Muslims really have nothing to do with issue of forbidding me to take pictures on a public sidewalk. It’s what the other side wants to turn this story into: religious persecution. You should hear him screaming: why? why? this is school for kids, studying sacred book, and she took pictures of them! Although of course I didn’t. I published full extent of the pictures I took (I only have one more on my camera, the one showing the sign above the door with the address; I’m not sure I want to publish it)and not only there were no pictures of kids – there were no pictures of people, period – until I got attacked.

      As to the “two parties acting stubborn, annoying each other, and getting into a spat” – we all should get along and be nice right, chel? The problem is – the more we acting “nice”, more anger and rage is unleashed, and more lies and manipulation.

      I won’t even comment your “there is no implied threat” statement. I wish it was so.

    18. chel Says:

      Jonathan,

      You know if someone came up to me on the street near my home and started taking pictures of me and my stuff without even asking it would really freak me out. And it would super freak me out if the same person came back and did it a few days later. I don’t think I’d be alone in feeling this way. And I’d probably call the police. I think most people would.

      You said:

      “You don’t have a right to prevent people you don’t like from taking photos of you in public.”

      Well, I think if you ask someone repeatedly to stop and they don’t… and then come back a few days later and do it again that could qualify as harassment. This isn’t a new problem, people like Brittney Spears deal with it all the time. You certainly have the right to call the police if you feel harassed or threatened. Actually, I think that’s the most appropriate way to deal with it. You said, “These people are trying to control their neighbors in a way that is distinctly un-American.” No, I actually think from the accounts that they are trying to deal with it in an American way. Punching someone in the face (ala Sean Penn) that would be unAmerican.

    19. chel Says:

      And Jonathan I don’t see how your first two points relate. You said:

      The fact that they are Muslims is notable for two reasons: 1) because they made it an issue and 2) because this minor quarrel resembles many public quarrels that Muslims have precipitated recently.

      Am I missing something? Did they somehow make a big issue out of their Muslim-ness? I didn’t see that in your account or in Tatyana’s original posts.

      And how does this have anything in common with any “public quarrels”? The only similarity I see is this is a case of people who are Muslim being annoyed at people who are not. Also are you implying that this group Tatyana was photgraphing precipitated the conflict?

    20. chel Says:

      Here’s a good guide about your photography rights:

      http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf

    21. Liar Says:

      [Deleted by admin. If you want to comment here you should avoid making false insinuations about your host.]

    22. Anonymous Says:

      chel – you set up a booth or table on a sidewalk, you ask for people to take your picture in NYC – happens all the time. Why assume a threat? They read T’s blog or this one? I don’t think so.

      Liar – I would have addressed the RAID comment to Scientologists as well. And have, over at It Comes in Pints. You don’t back down in front of people who intimidate their followers and those who criticize them. And, in my book peaceful people do not wrap their women in blue and red bedsheets – that is de facto evidence of sadism.

    23. Jonathan Says:

      Chel wrote:
      Also are you implying that this group Tatyana was photgraphing precipitated the conflict?

      It seems clear to me that they did.