I’m going to get sued for harassment, people!
2 days after Sunday, and the incident I described here kept bothering me. I tried to distract myself, home and in the office, but my thoughts were coming back, to the guy in dress, jumping in front of me and screaming into my face. I felt soiled.
And I realized – if I will keep quiet and let it pass, there will be more of the same, and of the more hostile nature. And that I wouldn’t be able to respect myself.
I don’t like to be called a stupid bitch. And I don’t like to be forbidden to take photographs on a public street in American city.
So, tonight on my way back from work I took the camera out of my purse and took a picture of that shop; the shades were down, no one was outside. Immediately after I clicked my camera, the same guy in the same mood jumped out of the shop in the same familiar manner, as in repeating nightmare, and started to scream at me again. In a second, his women (it felt there were more than 2) appeared on the scene, and did the same: yelling “what do you take picture for? get out! you’re harassing us! against the law!” Especially one (in burgundy burqa) – went into my face, screaming: you’re harassing me!!! I kept clicking, almost automatically. As you’ll note, all the shots are taken practically from the same spot. It’s other participants of the scene that kept coming uncomfortably close to me. She screamed “you blinded me with a flash! you took a picture of my face!” What face?, I said. (As you’ll see, she was covered up to her eyes). Than she shouted, triumphant: I can take a picture of you too! And she did, repeatedly.
From the yells originating from the shop-keeper I understood he’s calling the precinct. People passed us, turning to gawk at the scandal. One of the passersbies, a guy in a military uniform, didn’t leave. He waited couple of minutes, listened to the mayhem, and asked me what’s going on. I explained. He tried to tell the screaming party that I, in fact, can take pictures on the public sidewalk – to no effect.
I could leave, but I didn’t. He could, too – and he didn’t. I am deeply grateful to Mr. John Berger, of military police, for staying with me there, on a sidewalk, waiting for the police to come, and giving me his cell number. We waited for 27 min.
Then the police car arrived, Mr.Berger gave his short evidence and left, and I was asked questions by the 2 officers, Wong and Tejada. I showed them pictures and explained what’s happening. My adversary didn’t cease his screaming even for a minute, this time – addressing the officers and complaining that “this Rashan” called him “a stooupid muslim” and that I came inside his shop and took pictures of his office, among other things. His woman (the one in a burqa) duplicated every word he said in that high-pitched holler that is so familiar after the TV reportages involving muslim gatherings.
To make the story short: two policemen paged their supervisor, (officer Higgins, said his badge), and his partner. The four of them had interviewed the other party at length. And then we had a conversation.
I have to tell you: I was disappointed with officer Higgins’ take on things. He told me:
1) that I can take pictures of storefronts, especially those that belong to muslims, only if I am affiliated with official organization and am doing it for official purpose: for a school project, a newspaper article and such.
2) that taking pictures of the store (let me remind you – on a public street, a public sidewalk) is asking for trouble, because my actions are bothering the owner, and I am lucky that the owner didn’t get physical with me. He said it in a tone of voice implying that the owner was justified to “get physical”.
3) that he advises me do not return to this place and stop bothering these innocent people. When I asked, am I prohibited to use the sidewalk on my way to the public transportation, which I use at least twice a day, he retracted his advice.
4) that I should read the news (my, if I ever) and learn that it is a sensitive subject (the background wailing of “I’m Ameriken! I lif heerr! My wife lif heerr! I go to cort! It is a law – no piktooures!” in a meanwhile continued). I replied – it is a sensitive subject for me, too. I am sensitive to prohibition and to being cursed at.
5) that I instigated this incident.
The shop owner and his assistant, who appeared on the doorstep later, the one I had asked to photograph originally on Sunday, tried to get some distinctly anti-islamic statements out of me; asking me questions like why I didn’t want to know more about their peaceful religion? why didn’t I take their brochure? where did I learn about islam? have I ever read the quran? I said – this all has no relevance to the incident and that I can care less about their religion or the books they were trying to peddle.
So, the result: I had filed a harrassment complaint and the screaming party did the same; the guy threatened me with a lawsuit. I will have to call tomorrow to get the complaint number.
Do you know any lawyers?
Update to an update
In the comments I found a good question from an anonymous (please, sign your name, whatever you choose for it, for convenience in conversation):
-You have your right to take photos of people. And they have their right not to let you do so.
So – what to do in this case?-
Agree: everyone has a right to privacy.
That’s why, if I may to turn you to the facts, I DIDN’T take pictures of people.
First photo that I took, was of the table with literature. No human near by. What’s more, I asked the guy guarding it if it’s OK to photograph him; he refused, so I didn’t.
Second photo – of the storefront. No visitors/owner of the store present on my photo.
All the rest was my documenting of an attack on me. I have a right to defense, and this is what it was. My camera was my weapon of the moment.