The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, February 27, 2003  

Cracking Down on Dangerous Shutterbugs

"It's been a tough month for people taking pictures in Philadelphia," reports Daniel Brook in the latest issue of Philadelphia City Paper. ("Shoot to Kill?", February 27-March 5 issue.)

Brook writes:

On Mon., Feb. 24, Iman Radito, an Indonesian Muslim, was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $5,000 for overstaying a student visa and possessing false documentation, including a forged "green card" and Social Security card. Meanwhile, a number of Haverford College students were interrogated by police after shooting photos of Suburban Station for an urban studies class assignment.

Radito was picked up by an agent from the Philadelphia Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) on Sept. 11, 2002, at Delaware Avenue and Vine Street in Old City after being observed taking photographs of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Radito, who was led into the courtroom wearing a green prison jumper and handcuffs, pled guilty.

There are some complexities to the situation addressed in Brook's article that warrant a closer look.

As for the crisis at Suburban Station:

On Sat., Feb. 8, a South Asian Haverford College urban planning student was detained for questioning by the SEPTA transit police after he was observed making sketches and taking photographs of Suburban Station. After verifying that the student was enrolled in Bryn Mawr College's "Form of the City" class and was completing an assignment to observe the station during off-peak hours, SEPTA police released the student.

Joseph Disponzio, the course's professor, says the individual looks South Asian. Though other students were questioned, only the minority student was detained. "My gut feeling is that the student was profiled," Disponzio says via e-mail. The student in question did not respond to City Paper's request for an interview.

Gary McDonogh, the department chair, also hints that the police were practicing racial profiling, mentioning that the cops "actually helped other students take photographs. The difference is quite troubling."

Only to people who care about continuing to live in a free and open society, a number that each day appears to me to be alarming small -- and shrinking -- and that as the 21st Century Crusades are about the begin in earnest.

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