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Photographer Thomas Hawk Harassed by Police for Taking Photos

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Photo by Naixn via Flickr

If you don't know blogger and photographer Thomas Hawk, his name recently hit the radar last August when he was physically ousted from San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art for taking a photograph in an area where photographs were allowed. In short, it became an internet brawl between Hawk and Simon Blint, the museum's Director of Visitor Relations.

On the street, we hear mixed reviews of Hawk. Some think he's great for standing up for his rights; others who can't stand him saying he's abrasive, which leads to said confrontational situations.

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Nevertheless, it happened again this past week when he was visiting Long Beach. He and a friend were taking photos of "industrial stuff" around the Port of Long Beach. At one point, a British Petroleum security guard asked them to stop taking photos of their refinery, which drew attention to itself by having a massively huge flag hung on its wall. Later, Long Beach Harbor Patrol stopped them where a larger confrontation took place.

Basically the conversation went something like this. Long Beach Harbor Patrol Officer: "I'm going to have to ask you guys to leave."

Us: "But, why, were simply taking art photographs."

Long Beach Harbor Patrol Officer: "You're not allowed to photograph these plants."

Us: "But we're on a public sidewalk. What law doesn't allow us to photograph here?"

Long Beach Harbor Patrol Officer: "You'll need to come back tomorrow and get a permit if you want to shoot in the Harbor."

Me: "I'm only down in Long Beach for tonight and won't be able to do that."

2nd Long Beach Harbor Patrol Officer (shrugging her shoulders): Oh, well, you're just going to have to leave. Photography is not allowed here without a permit."

During this altercation both David and I were asked to present identification to the police. They used our IDs to run background checks on both of us.

Hawk wrote the Port of Long Bach's media relations and eventually heard back, but was not happy to hear their response calling it cover-your-ass bullshit.

Photography in public spaces and security/police trying to stop it is nothing to Los Angeles. You often hear about peoplesnapping photos in downtown approached by security and most recently, a photographer who was harassed in the Metro Red Line Subway.