Maybe I’m wrong here. But isn’t it basic logic to expect that if you’re standing on a street corner with a sign someone might just take your picture? Especially if your at a location that is a popular tourist destination. Not to mention the fact that when your smiling at someone and acting as if you want your picture taken. The person holding camera will most likely take your picture.
So today I did this just a few blocks down from the Edgewater Hotel. The man looked down on his lucky. He either had a sign with a message or asking for money. I’m not sure which to be honest. After I took the picture the man approached me. I figured he would try asking me for money. Seattle has a major problem with panhandlers the police on patrol seem to care less about it. It seems to be ok to harass tourist.
So this man basically snapped at me and ranted about I shouldn’t be taking pictures of people without their permission. Keep in mind this is a very public place. I’d be taken hours for each picture if I had to ask each person to sign a consent form. Even after I offered to delete the photo. This man was still angry to the point of almost being violent. Only after Cheryl told him multiple times that the no photo of him was on the camera did he chill out a bit.
Honestly I now regret trying to handle this in a civil manner. I should have told this person where to stick it. But I was wanting to avoid a confrontation over something so simple. Honestly is this some sort of violation of privacy or stepping on someones basic freedoms? Why is this man not angry at the various other forms of video surveillance that monitor him daily? Is it really harassment to take a picture of someone who is displaying a message to the public? Granted there seemed to be a reporter interviewing someone near by. This person looked to be in the same situation as the man that fully harassed and tried to intimidate me. However it was obvious that I wasn’t apart of that.
I just honestly don’t feel I was out of line. Some might say this person should be free to harass anyone he wants. Others would say he should be able to display a public message without being subject to having his photo taken. My view is don’t go standing on a street corner hustling for change, touting your religious beliefs or presenting what ever message if your not willing to be a photographic subject. I’m not someone who doesn’t understand the homeless situation. Anyone who knows me would tell you I’m not uncaring in regards to the subject. Although I would question how much real good can be done by providing a panhandler some money.
I also have to question how good of a job is being done by those who are suppose to be helping these people. Again I’m more than aware that this is not a cut and dry situation. Many variables exist. If I really felt my money would be put to use for food or shelter. I wouldn’t hesitate to help any persons cause if I could. Granted I don’t have enough money to save the world. But many times one person lending a hand can in fact make a positive change for someone needing that little bit of help and a leg up in life.
All I know is I was not harassed by panhandlers in Chicago near as much as I have been so far in Seattle. Neither city in my opinion takes the problem seriously. For the record – today I saw some harassment of people in the neighborhood of Occidental Square. Many of the people loitering around this area were being forced out of this location do to a movie filming about to take place. The City of Seattle must want to hide the problem from the world and sanitize the location for the film crew. I’m not so sure they have handled this situation in the best way. There is a fine line between enforcing laws and regulations and harassment. I tend to believe that law enforcement and others harass homeless people and those down on their luck more than try to help them. Then again some of these people might need to be locked up and off the streets.
Visitors to any community shouldn’t feel threatened during their stay. A good portion of the tourist attractions located on Alaskan Way are in fact seeing harassment of tourist. There are ways this could be resolved in a civil manner. The homeless and vagrant population is represented in large numbers around these tourist destinations for obvious reasons. It would be wise to increase enforcement of basic laws to improve the visitor experience in Seattle. While a vocal minority might call this harassment. I personally feel I should be able to walk down the street without someone in my face trying to get money from me. Or threatening me because they seemed to be posing for a picture they didn’t want taken after all.
Update November 5, 2007 – I found a photo of the person this article is about.