Man Arrested For Photographing Police In Rittenhouse Square

It seems that in recent years, due to the increasing accessibility of technology, there have been more and more cases of people getting arrested for filming or photographing the police.

On July 14 in Rittenhouse Square, a journalism student from the University of Cincinnati was arrested for photographing a police officer moving a homeless couple out of the park (which, according to our research, is not illegal as long as he did not interfere with an investigation). He sent us an open letter to the officer who arrested him, which is printed in full below:

(An open letter to Officer George Gaspar Jr. of the Philadelphia Police Department.)

Dear Officer Gaspar Jr,

I would like to thank you for your service to the people of Philadelphia. As an officer of the law, you are a servant of the public and enforce their codes. Thank you for protecting our laws that our democratic government has created to protect us. Thank you for doing what you thought you should when confronted by me: taking the interest of the peoples representative legislation and judicial processes over my individual beliefs of what my rights as a human and US citizen are and arresting me in front of some 50 people in that public park.

I was just some kid who had no problem having a new experience: standing up for what I thought my rights are. You were serving your duty when you arrested me as I took photographs of you relocating that homeless couple through Rittenhouse Square. You didn’t think it was something I should be doing and, in the interest of your duty to serve and protect, you arrested me so that the judicial system can decide my guilt.

To me, I thought that it was my civil right to document how the agents of the people’s government treat our least fortunate citizens. To you, I was “interfering with a police investigation” – causing enough distress that you felt it necessary to intimidate, restrain and arrest me after telling me that I could not take pictures.

Regardless of who I thought I was, a credential carrying member of the photojournalistic press, I knew that there was a process. The police of this country are the strong arm of the law – your job is not to decide one’s guilt, but rather to bring people before the judicial system for judgment. That aside, I do appreciate your input in telling me that as a member of the media, it was “bad press” to yell the spelling of my name and identity to bystanders as you hustled me down the sidewalk. But I was just some kid, and I knew I wouldn’t really matter to you the next day. I felt obliged to go peacefully.

The furthest through this I can get by myself is to plead no contest to your charges and find a way to pay the fine before I return to school in my home state of Ohio. I really wont have the chance to present my case as to why I am not guilty of the charges before I leave. By myself, I cant get much done.

Despite how much I feel that my civil rights were violated, your job is not to act as my personal servant, enforcing the rules the way I want you to. You answer to a power far greater than my individual self- you enforce the codes of the People. When the people act as one, we in a democracy can change the laws that you keep as your code: the definition of the relationship between our police and our citizenry. We the people are not only the ones that decide your code, but also weapons, facilitates and paychecks.

So, officer Gaspar, thank you for bringing an issue that you thought relevant enough before the courts, even going so far as to completely abandon your prior ‘investigation’ of moving Sydni and Luke out of Rittenhouse Square. Thank you for thinking of the people’s wellbeing when you decided to arrest a member of the news media in the middle of that crowded park, and thank you, especially, for giving me the experience of what it means to stand up for my rights.

PS. I located the couple shortly after you released me from holding and we talked for a while about their account of the story. I walked away not only with the portrait I had originally wanted, but also a glimpse of the types of bonds that form between citizens under what they see as irresponsibility on behalf of the state. A learning experience of how our law enforcement really works is a lesson far more valuable than any fine.

Sincerely,
Coulter Loeb
Cincinnati, Ohio

  • friendlynerd

    I saw this happen, but until I read this I had no idea what I was seeing. I just saw the tail end of it when he was shouting the spelling of his name. Verrrry interesting.

  • poolside line

    Do students now count as ‘members of the photojournalistic press’?
    Is Coulter aware of how some of this city’s ‘least fortunate citizens’ have been responsible for defecating in the public parks, assault, and was it one or two summers ago when a homeless person stabbed someone in Love park?
    Not to be all ‘yay, police!’ here, because I’ve had my share of negative experiences with Philadelphia’s finest as well, but the sanctimonious nature of this letter really pains a picture of a monumental pain in the ass.

  • Zombie Larry

    He’s lucky he wasn’t sodomized by the cop’s nightstick while being given a “nickle ride” to the local district.

  • MichaelJackSauce

    That letter is awful, and reminds me of my own worst qualities as a College Kid.

    His parents should be arrested for naming him Coulter and providing either too much or too little attention. No question the cop was in the wrong, so Coulter should have just complied with the order and then reported him to the captain… but it seems the opportunity to be the Rittenhouse Bobby Sands made his dick hard.

  • Rob N

    If he was clearing crusties, I’m taking the cop’s side.

  • Timo

    Ohio is the New Jersey of the the Midwest.

    Please post the clip of Eddie Murphy being removed from the square in Trading Places, “Agent Orange was my codename!”

  • http://brobomb.com Baynton

    No matter how bad I wanna take this kid’s side…that is one annoying letter.

  • http://auxinn.wordpress.com/ Sonny

    Who cares how fucking annoying the letter is? You’re going to let that distract you? Are only non-annoying-letter writers worthy of their rights?

  • bmurray

    I’m thinking of the Rochester woman recently arrested for filming police making an arrest(possibly racial profiling) from her own front yard. Since when is it illegal to photograph police?

  • schmapty

    The kid is a wiener but the cops are bullies and when they act like this they do so much harm. Stuff like this is why people don’t snitch.

  • chuck63

    You’re right, Larry, the kid is lucky. Too bad you’re not lucky enough to not be turned on by the thought of it happening.

  • bmurray
  • arcticsplasher

    The cops ought to focus on removing and preventing the graffiti that is all over the center portion of that Square now. Looks awful and only encourages more.

  • iamdante

    The cops are clearly in the wrong, but that kid is little fucking douchebag I can’t side with him. I agree with MichaelJackSauce that the kids parents should be arrested for naming the little douche Coulter and raising him to become such a damn embarrassment to liberals. With liberals like “Coulter” no wonder why Ohio is a ghetto-conservative state.

  • Zombie Larry

    @chuck 63…

    Only if it’s your likeness tattooed on his ass making an “O” face around his rectum

  • shawnkilroy

    i’m very disappointed in Philly’s finest. i think philly cops while sometimes corrupt and brutal, are generally a lot better than cops from other places. journalists are not the only people who should be able to monitor the police. as citizens, we NEED to be able to photograph and videograph the police. i see too many youtube videos of citizens getting harassed for taping police activity. that kid sounds like a dickhead in his letter

  • chuck63

    Wow, Larry, fixate much on nightsticks and rectums? Do yourself a favor: go run some red lights and hock a loogey on the cop when he pulls you over, thereby insuring your fantasy’s fulfillment. Seems like I’ve touched a nerve when the only thing you want touched is your prostate by a billyclub.

  • phillygoat

    If the kid wants to defend his rights, the way you don’t do it is plead no contest, pay a fine, and write a pissy open letter.

  • Rob N

    “a credential carrying member of the photojournalistic press”

    what year does this kid think it is, 1978?

  • crunch

    @phillygoat yeah, pretty disappointed to hear that he’s pleading no contest. cops won’t be held accountable if we shrug off their missteps because it’s “inconvenient”.

  • steveeboy

    Kid wrote one of the most epic “fuck you, have a nice day” letters I have ever seen.
    granted, it would be better if he fought this in court so that he could prove– AGAIN –that you have a right to film cops as long as you don’t impede them in their duties but still, epic letter.
    Meanwhile, it seems like most comments on here–”There you go with that faggot talk again…”– are akin to those of the mouth breathers depicted in “Idiocracy”

  • chuck63

    @steveeboy…I wasn’t calling out Larry’s sexual twists and turns (the more of ‘em, the better, I say), I was calling out his law-and-order bent and the way he was fetishizing auhtoritarian violence in the name of teaching some kid a lesson.

  • bmurray

    Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242
    Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

    This statute makes it a crime for any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S.

    This law further prohibits a person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom to willfully subject or cause to be subjected any person to different punishments, pains, or penalties, than those prescribed for punishment of citizens on account of such person being an alien or by reason of his/her color or race.

    Acts under “color of any law” include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority, but also acts done without and beyond the bounds of their lawful authority; provided that, in order for unlawful acts of any official to be done under “color of any law,” the unlawful acts must be done while such official is purporting or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. This definition includes, in addition to law enforcement officials, individuals such as Mayors, Council persons, Judges, Nursing Home Proprietors, Security Guards, etc., persons who are bound by laws, statutes ordinances, or customs.

  • steveeboy

    chuck, I wasn’t referring to your discussion at all. Merely referring to the fact that most commenters attacked the letter content and focused judgments on the writer’s character based on his language rather than the real outrage of being arrested for committing no crime.
    kid spent a lot of time to write such a sarcastic FU letter.I enjoyed it.

  • Zombie Larry

    @shmuck63…

    My comment was meant to point out the sometimes violent and brutal ways of the Philadelphia Police and that the kid was indeed lucky. I was in no way implying that the kid was wrong. I am of the opinion that videoing police in the course of their duties is a good thing.

    The police themselves must think so because there are cameras mounted on the dashboards of police cars across the country.

    For some reason (ahem) I don’t believe the Phila Police have the mounted cameras.

  • crunch

    @steveeboy being sarcastic is funny and all, but it’s also a pretty juvenile response to a situation where this kid had a real chance to challenge this system here. acting like a wounded little prick is also a really terrible way to gain support for your cause. i think this would have been much more biting if he had remained more professional. taking the matter to court would have added some weight too.

  • Zombie Larry

    @crunch… yeah but at what personal cost? The guy is from Ohio. Transportation costs, the inevitable continuations, the real possibility of losing big. It’s sort of like getting an undeserved ticket. You end up paying it because the cost of fighting it is too much.

    That is the way the system is rigged. I have always believed that if you are found not guilty in a criminal case,the state should be forced to pay your legal expenses 100% on the spot.

  • southphilly

    First of all your 23; your not a kid and you broke the law when the officer ordered you to walk in the other direction. Its clear you have no respect for law enforcement and you where out there looking for trouble. I respect the police for all there hard work and keeping me safe; its not hard to do what your told and you could have enjoyed your day in the park instead of going to jail. Do you know how many philly police officers have been killed in the line of duty over the past three years what about their civil rights and the civil rights of the widows, children of these officers. Let me ask this kid who’s he going to call when he needs help; im sure he will be glad to see the police show up. When you found this couple did you ask them how many times they where arrested in the past; im sure this was not their first. One day your going to photograph the wrong person and find that camera jammed some place uncomfortable and then you might learn your lesson. Proud Philadelphian and supporter of the PPD

  • crunch

    @southphilly how many of those cops were killed by cameras?