Obama Photographer Confronted By Secret Service After Taking Photos in Front of White House

Mannie Garcia, who captured the image of Barack Obama that was made into the famous “Hope” poster by artist Shepard Fairey, is the latest photographer to be confronted by law enforcement for taking photos in a public place.

Last week we told you about the street photographer who was questioned by a police officer after capturing images in Times Square. In this case, Garcia was taking photos in front of the White House yesterday when a uniformed Secret Service officer confronted him and demanded he delete one of the images.

“He just charged me,” Garcia told PDN Pulse. “He came right at me and grabbed my camera. He had his hand on his weapon and said give me that photo and I said no.”

The image in question was one Garcia had captured of two women rolling baby strollers in front of the White House. In the shot, shown below, the uniformed Secret Service officer can be seen at the right, glaring at the camera.

Mannie Garcia was told to delete this photo by the Secret Service officer on the right. ©Mannie Garcia

Garcia was amongst a group of news photographers who were at the White House to photograph rallies in conjunction with World AIDS Day and several other events yesterday. He said he was wearing his press badge which the officer could clearly see.

“He said: ‘I want you to delete the photo. You don’t have my permission.’ And I said, we’re not photographing you. And then I asked him if I was under arrest and he said no. What bothered me the most was that he grabbed the camera and I had to pull it away. I’m not a kid. I’m in my 50s. I have grey hair and he clearly saw my credentials.”

Garcia was able to walk away from the officer with his Nikon D3s and the image intact. Later, Jay Mallin, a photographer friend of Garcia’s, explained what happened to a sergeant in charge of the Secret Service officers. The sergeant told Garcia that the officer was out of line.

©Jay Mallin

“When I showed him the photo, which I did in good faith, the sergeant rolled his eyes and looked at the young officer,” Garcia said. “It was a situation where you had new uniformed Secret Service officer who was new to the beat. Obviously he has had training but not the experience about what should be done.”

Though it may have been an isolated incident, Garcia said the atmosphere has been tense of late.

“Yesterday, in particular, felt like a day of heightened security. It had this mood in the air. But people have a right to be there and you don’t intimidate people by charging them and putting your hand on your weapon.”

(From Jay’s Blog.)

22 Responses to “Obama Photographer Confronted By Secret Service After Taking Photos in Front of White House”

  1. Photographer accosted by the S.S. on the street in front of White House - INGunOwners Says:

    […] Service agent charged at him, hand on his weapon, and demanded that he delete the photographs. PDN Pulse Blog Archive Obama Photographer Confronted By Secret Service After Taking Photos in Front … __________________ […]

  2. Photographer accosted by the S.S. on the street in front of White House - INGunOwners Says:

    […] Service agent charged at him, hand on his weapon, and demanded that he delete the photographs. Obama Photographer Confronted By Secret Service After Taking Photos in Front of White House __________________ […]

  3. James Says:

    You don’t need credentials to take pictures in public. That part of Manny’s statement is odd. Whether he had credentials is irrelevant.

  4. Thom Gourley Says:

    Another photo-terrorist foiled in the act! Jeez, folks, this is just getting ridiculous! The US and the UK are vying for the title of most oppressive to photography in public. How can we stop this harassment by law enforcement when we are TOTALLY within our rights?

  5. Ian L. Sitren Says:

    It appears that this cop immediately escalated to his hand on his gun and then immediately went to physical attack.

    If these allegations are correct than this individual should not be entrusted to be carrying a gun as an authority. He appears to not have the demeanor this responsibility carries.

    In addition for a law enforcement official to not understand the basic concept of the freedom of an individual to take a photo in public speaks to his own stupidity.

    Again if the allegations are true, this individual is a badge heavy arrogant gun carrying buffoon who should be fired immediately.

  6. K A C Says:

    Good thing it wasn’t me…Aye Manny! I would have been the first to be attacked by about 10, SS (that ain’t for Secret Service either) officers. I would have told him to go crap in his hat. But that would have been after I got in Face big for touch my gear. At that point I’m sure I would have been the 1st Photog to be shot in front of the White House. Would have loved to see the Czar and his Henchman cover that up!
    (Sorry I didn’t want to use my real name or email, because of the Socialist in the White House) If you want my real name ask Manny. I shoot where’s it’s warm all the time. Little White Ball.

  7. Canadian Photographer Says:


    I do NOT Travel in the States (and Canada and Internationally) unless I have these around my neck as credentials.

    Not only have I had not trouble (10,000+ digital captures lately) but I have received free upgrades and better treatment at airports.

    Keep up the good fight!


  8. Canadian Photographer Says:

    1. You can make a photograph of anything and anyone on any public property, except where a specific law prohibits it.
    i.e. streets, sidewalks, town squares, parks, government buildings open to the public, and public libraries.

    2. You may shoot on private property if it is open to the public, but you are obligated to stop if the owner requests it.
    i.e. malls, retail stores, restaurants, banks, and office building lobbies.

    3. Private property owners can prevent photography ON their property, but not photography OF their property from a public location.

    4. Anyone can be photographed without concent when they are in a public place unless there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
    i.e. private homes, restrooms, dressing rooms, medical facilities, and phone booths.

    5. Despite misconceptions, the following subjects are almost always permissible:
    * accidents, fire scenes, criminal activities
    * children, celebrities, law enforcement officers
    * bridges, infrastructure, transportation facilities
    * residential, commercial, and industrial buildings

    6. Security is rarely an acceptable reason for restricting photography. Photographing from a public place cannot infringe on trade secrets, nor is it terrorist activity.

    7. Private parties cannot detain you against your will unless a serious crime was committed in their presence. Those that do so may be subject to criminal and civil charges.

    8. It is a crime for someone to threaten injury, detention, confiscation, or arrest because you are making photographs.

    9. You are not obligated to provide your identity or reason for photographing unless questioned by a law enforcement officer and state law requires it.

    10. Private parties have no right to confiscate your equipment without a court order. Even law enforcement officers must obtain one unless making an arrest. No one can force you to delete photos you have made.

  9. Another CDN photographer Says:

    Those are a really good idea I don’t think it would have helped during the G-20 in Toronto but it is a good idea in most cases to have those. And they look sharp.

  10. Another CDN photographer Says:

    …and that is really crap what that uniformed Secret Service rookie did. I certainly hope he got re assigned after the bad press this has got for the protective detail. And you can always recover deleted image anyway. there are several programs out there to pull em back unless the card has been over written.

  11. MB Says:

    FWIW, I’m really quite surprised at this. I live/work near the WH and have been shooting it for 10+ years. The security (including SS) around there is probably the least threatening/intimidating in the DC area. You can (and I have) take pictures for hours. Will someone watch you? Bet on it. Interfere? Never have, in my experience. So I tend to believe the sergeant’s explanation. Still not cool, but not an institutional problem.

  12. Skippy Says:

    The person is clearly too young, inexperienced, untrained and simply irrational to carry a gun and be a member of any type of organized law enforcement. I suspect he got to “work” each day with dreams of stopping a terrorist attack on the White House and become a hero.

    And on the subject of the White House, where is my Change and Hope? I thought The Messiah was going to reverse the fascism and destruction of civil liberties that occurred under W. Monkey-Boy Bush. If the Messiah was serious about restoring civil liberties he should have a nice chat with this kid. Publicly. And tell him not to let it happen again.

    But of course the Hope for the Change for the Change of the Hope was just a tag line for the election. We now return you to our previous program of corporate bailouts and war.

  13. jon Says:

    Was this Bozo Uniformed SS or Park Police. If this unprofessional is SS, then he should be demoted to the TSA for acting in this manner. What kind of training did this guy have? Anger / rage problems? Somebody like this guy should not be protecting the White House and is an embarrassment to the USSS.

  14. We're all going to die! Says:

    Big deal. I’m a photographer and a lefty. Im definitely not an apolgist for strong arm law enforcement BUT this secret service agent was new and obviously out of line. His boss said so! What’s the big deal? A bunch of nothing. People need to chill and quit trying to make capital cases out of simple ignorant mistakes by police. Think.

  15. Questa foto è proibita » Fotocrazia - Blog - Repubblica.it Says:

    […] andata? L’ha raccontata lui stesso: Garcia stava scattando qualche foto (un po’ controvoglia, si direbbe) al […]

  16. No, immortality is around the corner thanks to advances in science Says:

    This is the new 15 minutes of fame.
    Snappers reporting their daily hassles.

  17. Thomas Says:

    This secret service cop should be fired, plain and simple. This sort of ridiculous things is happening everywhere, on a large and small scale. It happened to me for documenting a local unsafe intersection used by a school. I still have not gotten an apology from the arrogant officials involved; only excuses.

    Tin Gods with a little power think they have a right to harass and intimidate photographers and are getting away with it. And they are public employees to boot going around violating the civil rights of citizen photographers.

    FYI I wrote an article about my incident and included some useful Photographer’s Legal Rights links for the mutual education of both photographers and the nasty arrogant violators.


  18. UberPatriot Says:

    every attack on photography is an attack on democracy

  19. Thomas Says:

    FYI I’ve updated my own article on photographers rights and unlawful confrontation to include a link to this story. Mannie, photographers everywhere support you. You were in fact unlawfully assaulted.



    Perhaps those of us who’ve been intimidated by police or other ignorance government pointy heads should start an advocacy group. A place where we can tell our collective stories, learn about rights, and gain support.

  20. White House Photog Gets Harassed – at White House « Says:

    […] Source: PDN Pulse […]

  21. dbltapp Says:

    Hey Canadian Photographer – how do you go about getting those upgrades?

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