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Wiita v. Raymond Kelly, et al. (Defending right to photograph public places)

This case involves a Columbia University graduate student of Indian descent who was unlawfully handcuffed and detained by police officers while snapping photographs of an elevated train platform in upper Manhattan. The plaintiff, Arun Wiita, a 26-year-old Columbia graduate student in the M.D./Ph.D. program, was arrested shortly after he embarked on a planned 10-day project of photographing all 468 subway stations and their surrounding streetscapes. He was standing on the sidewalk at 207th Street and 10th Avenue taking pictures with a point-and-shoot digital camera when an NYPD officer interrupted him. Though Mr. Wiita was entirely cooperative and explained his project to the officer and showed him his Columbia identification, he was handcuffed and forced to stand on a busy street corner for a half an hour. During that time, the officer reviewed Mr. Wiita’s pictures and called in information over his radio. Two plainclothes police officers also arrived on the scene, questioned Mr. Wiita and viewed his photographs. Following the public interrogation, the officers released Mr. Wiita from the handcuffs and allowed him to leave. In December 2007, the NYCLU sued in federal court on behalf of Mr. Wiita, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory damages for his arrest and attorneys’ fees. The case has been settled. 

S.D.N.Y., Index No. 07 CIV. 11056 (direct) 

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