CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) was in town at the Marriott-Wardman Hotel and I figured that would be a good opportunity to network and maybe get some good shots. CPAC is the big annual lovefeast of conservatives and attracts such nationally known people as Sarah Palin, Ron Paul and of course whatever Republican Presidential candidates are in the #1 spot at the moment.
I head to media registration to pick up my credentials and am standing at the table when I hear some shouting and chanting going on in the main lobby just behind me. Quickly dialing in the gear I move towards the noise.
Looking up I see four OccupyDC protesters that I recognize. They’re standing on the balcony encircling the 2nd floor of the lobby. As they throw balloons and Monopoly money into the crowd below them, I start shooting.
I notice that security is moving the protesters in the general direction of the escalators so I move that direction also…I want to get some shots as they come down the escalator towards me. I watch them through the viewfinder as I squeeze off several shots and they get closer to me. Stepping aside, I let the cops and protesters walk past me towards the front entrance. I follow, still shooting.
I walk along beside the protesters and security as they walk down the driveway to the street with the camera still to my eye. I stop about halfway down the drive and head back up to the hotel entrance where I turn around and get a few last shots of the protesters across the street.
Once inside, I run into – and begin speaking with — a client. He, a friend of his and I are chatting in the main lobby when I notice a city cop and the head of hotel security come over to me.
The city cop points to me and says, “That’s him. He’s one of them. I just escorted him out of the building with the rest of them.” I look at him and tell him, “You did NOT escort me anywhere. I was taking photographs.” The cop wanted to argue, so it devolved into a ‘DID NOT – DID TOO’ kind of conversation.
Since the cop was obviously lying and I was in the middle of the lobby surrounded by people, I had NO qualms about making a scene, so with each “You did NOT escort me to the street” I got louder and louder. I was going to attract some attention since it seemed that law enforcement was in the minority here and I had a target on my back. When the CPAC attendees started to stop and stare at the commotion, the head of hotel security stepped in and asked me what had happened.
I told him that I had been shooting the protesters and I described where I was positioned. He asked to see the photos on the camera so I showed him. (NOTE: I did NOT hand him the camera, I held it up so he could see the LCD and could scroll through the photos.) When he seemed satisfied that my version of the story was the truth, he called someone on his radio and he was given instructions to leave me alone and let me stay in the building.
I don’t know why this cop lied so strongly. I don’t know why he seemed to single me out of the crowd. I’ve gotta get out of this town for awhile.
Jerry Nelson is a nationally recognized photojournalist and adventure photographer. His work has appeared in many national, regional and local publications including CNN, USAToday, Upsurge, Earthwalkers and Associated Content and he is a regular contributor to Huffington Post as well as OpEdNews. Nelson travels the country seeking out the people, places and things that make America unique and great. Nelson currently is in Washington D.C. pointing his camera at OccupyDC and freelancing for The Washington Times the second largest paper in the nation’s capital.
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