Secret Service overreacts to photographer
By Alex Lloyd Gross
At best it is the overreaction of an overzealous brand new Secret Service Agent. At worst, it is an agent who knew better but did not use any common sense in dealing with a credentialed member of the media. HERE is the incident, caught on cell phone video. Now the agent has tarnished ( again) the reputation of a once stellar law enforcement agency. This is what happened in chronological order yesterday, February 29, 2016
While covering a Donald Trump rally in Radford University, veteran photojournalist Chris Morris spotted some Black Lives Matters protesters marching around the rally area. Morris was in the media area and briefly stepped outside to take a photo. That is when a Secret service Agent told him to return to the press pen. At this point, both men were inches from another and Morris replied “F*ck you”.
Within a nanosecond, the agent escalated the incident by grabbing Morris around the throat and neck,placing him in a choke hold and body slamming him onto a table. as the agent gets up,Morris kicks his legs, and someof the kicks connect with the agent and some do not. Morris then is very agitated and briefly puts his hand on the agents neck to demonstrate his displeasure. Other agents and cops see this and escort Morris out of the event. He was then readmitted where the twomen were see shaking hands.
First, the press pen is the most ridiculous policy ever. The media needs a place to work but Trump’s policy is they must stay put, not even allowing them to use the restroom. Protesters, the unemployed, the haters and anyone and everyone else is free to roam the facility unimpeded. Second, Morris was wrong for responding with profanity to what could be considered a reasonable request. It makes him look unprofessional.
Teenagers working security at a rock concert have more self control and training than this agent demonstrated. It is unknown if he was new or has ever worked a protective detail before. Simple common sense and security procedure will dictate that Morris was no threat to the protectee. By overreacting to a bruised ego set on by a curse word, the agent set himself and his agency up to be sued. This agent has no idea who Morris is or if he was recovering from any surgery. Had this been the case, Morris could be in the hospital.
Morris was carrying expensive equipment that could have been damaged. Cameras and lenses cost more than a Secret Service Agent can make in a year. There were also innocent people nearby that could have also sustained an injury due to the actions by the agent. In a statement, the USSS stated that they are having their field office investigate the matter. The agent could be suspended or terminated .
So what should have happened? As soon as Morris uttered his curse word, the agent should have radioed for another agent, while telling Morris to return to the pen or leave the event. If Morris returned the incident would not have happened. If Morris refused, the agents should have grabbed him by his upper arm and told him is being shown the door. He would have the opportunity to walk or be escorted out bodily.
Trump insists on keeping the media penned up at his events and is fond of mocking them and insulting them while he speaks to the crowd. The National Press Photographers Association has stated their displeasure at the actions of the USSS ” We assert the function of the U.S. Secret Service at these events is to provide security and deescalate confrontational situations, not create them,” NPPA president Melissa Lyttle said.
Time Magazine said that Morris should be back to work soon. He was not injured as of yesterday. Morris had stated that he is not interested in pressing assault charges against the agent. Several years ago, Morris did a photo essay on Secret service Agents on while covering the White House for Time. Morris is a contract photographer and not a staff photographer.
This incident comes on the heels of some very embarrassing escapades involving Secret Service Agents that include sleeping on the job, being inattentive and and allowing intruders to jump the White House Fence and scamper into the White House, drunk driving and hiring prostitutes in Columbia, then arguing over paying them.