Photography activists pepper sprayed outside Downtown LA federal jail

- Two photography activists were pepper sprayed by a security guard while they say they were filming from a public sidewalk in front of a federal jail in Downtown Los Angeles Monday night.

It happened in front of the Federal Metropolitan Detention Center, and it was all caught on tape. 

Elijah Wesbrock, one of the men who was pepper sprayed, is a “first amendment auditor.” They are known to film near government locations to probe for a possible reaction, but maintain they always stay on public property.

“I was approached by a female lieutenant, she was the supervisor inside of that federal detention center, she decided to come out and tell me that I needed to delete my footage,” he said. “She then tried to grab my camera, tried to rip it out of my hands, I moved away from her about 10 feet, and then she chose to come at me and grab my camera from me.”

Video shows Wesbrock and the guard yelling at eachother, the guard saying Wesbrock was illegally filming on federal property, while Wesbrock shouted that he was on a public sidewalk.  

Eventually, the guard repeatedly pepper sprayed Wesbrock and his colleague. 

“As soon as I got sprayed, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see, I was disoriented,” he said.

Johnny Olsen, a fellow activist, showed up moments later. 

“This is one of the reasons we’re out here doing what we do, to show how ridiculous post 9/11 everybody is scared of cameras,” he said. “It’s a public sidewalk, it’s a public thoroughfare, to say that it’s federal property and you cannot film from there is such an egregious violation of common sense and worse, law.”

That line of thinking is why a group of fellow photography activists showed up to the same federal jail Tuesday, and filmed it from the exact same location in a show of solidarity.

“Once one of us gets messed up, we’re out there for everybody. Some people wanna call us instigators and stuff like that we’re not man we just want to ensure that our rights are upheld,” said Richard Crowell. 

Wesbrock said responding LAPD officers took the security guards side Monday night. He was briefly detained and then released without any charges. 

He said the guard told him he would be let go if he deleted his footage, and two of his cameras were taken and never returned.

“I just want the situation rectified. I would like criminal charges pressed against this guard,” he said. 

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