With camera in hand, Marc Byrn strolled Detroit taking photos of downtown last week. Unfortunately for him, his camera lens landed on the federal courthouse. When it did, a man exited a car near Shelby and Lafayette streets and flashed a U.S. marshal’s badge. He asked to see the shutterbug’s ID. Byrn obliged. The marshal, whose name Byrn could not recall, explained that taking photos of federal buildings is prohibited when the country is under a code orange alert. The marshal was referring to that ingenious color scheme that U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge created to either A) keep Americans alert so as to prevent terrorist attacks or B) freak everyone into a frenzy and give people with badges something to do on slow days.
According to Byrn, the marshal escorted him into the courthouse, where his driver’s license was taken. About 15 minutes later, his license was returned and he was released. He says the marshal told him that he “did not match the profile of anything they are looking for.” Byrn is 19, 6-foot-1 and white. The lawman also said that he could confiscate Byrn’s camera and film, but didn’t.
Robert Pettit, chief deputy U.S. marshal in Detroit, told News Hits he knows of no rule barring the public from taking photos when the country is under orange alert — or any color alert. Pettit did say that a court order prohibits photographing jurors involved in the terror trial under way at the courthouse.
Byrn is not the first photographer to be hassled by The Man. As noted in a column by the editor of this rag (Screed, Metro Times, April 9-15), freelance photographer Bruce Giffin was on assignment for the paper when Deputy U.S. Marshal Bradley Meng and his cohorts approached him. Giffin was taking a photo of the courthouse at the time. Meng said that a court order prohibited photographing the courthouse during certain hours. The court order we read states no such thing.
Meng later told Metro Times reporter Ann Mullen that he feared that Giffin may have photographed jurors serving in the terrorist trial currently under way in the courthouse; the jurors’ identities have been protected since the trial began in March.
Fair enough. But it seems that the marshals should be given cards that say exactly what the rules are, and not just wing it. They could lose their credibility.
And what effect is all this sky-is-falling security having on the jurors? They must feel as though they are truly at risk, that the defendants and their allies are vicious people.Send comments to [email protected]