I don’t want to alarm anyone, and I’ve not found any reporting on this happening anywhere else, but one of our readers/commenters sent me the following. I’ve removed a lot of the personal references so as not to identify the reader/commenter unless he/she wishes to do so in the comments.
I’m curious if you have heard anything like the story I will relate below; this information was given to me by a close friend who is intelligent, observant, and not given to paranoia.
Dayton, OH protest in downtown area, Friday evening 2/3/17 – general theme was to protest the recent immigration EO issued by POTUS. About 1000 or so people attended the protest, and the group was marching – peaceably – along downtown streets, with appropriate police oversight and no major agitation or violence. My friend noticed two guys who hurried forward through the crowd toward the front and began to face the oncoming crowd while firing high-end cameras as fast as possible (flash enabled). He noticed that the two men had face masks similar to the ones seen on some of the violent participants in the DC protests on Inauguration Day; obviously, people on our side wonder just who those folks in DC were, so the resemblance struck a chord in his mind. Each of the men had large backpacks, which seemed out of character for the event, although certainly they may have contained photographic gear. My friend was near one of the men, so he approached the guy who was kneeling and taking pictures. He tapped the guy on the shoulder and calmly asked the guy if he was from the area, from a press group, etc. The man said nothing, but looked wary and simply shook his head slowly. My friend wanted to elicit some kind of spoken response from the man, so he asked if the man spoke English; more slow head-shaking in return. He asked the man if he (my friend) could take the other man’s picture, held up his phone to do so, only to have the guy get quite close to my friend and begin firing his flash-enabled camera as close to my friend’s face as he could get. Since it was dark, the constant flashing seemed intended to prevent my friend from seeing the man and taking a picture of him. The man began to back away, all the time shooting his camera at my friend, but facing him as he retreated. Eventually, the man melted into the crowd, and neither man was seen again (by my friend). My friend did get two photos of the guy, but the quality is poor and I’m not sure the pics would be useful anyway given the face mask (and stocking cap) the man wore.
This seems very strange behavior, even if the men were from some sort of press group (doubtful). My friend told this story to me in hopes I would tell him he’s crazy, but I was unable to reassure him. Have you heard of anything like this occurring at any gatherings around the country recently?
Other than this report emailed to me, I have not heard anything like this in regard to the recent marches and demonstrations and assemblies. However, there is a standard tactic of shaming and extortion that has been used by some groups over the years. Usually this involves trying to take pictures of the people entering and the license plates of the cars they are driving to women’s reproductive health clinics, adult entertainment emporiums – both strip clubs and video stores – in an attempt to determine who the people are and to then extort them by threatening to out them to their employers, colleagues, family, and/or friends. Or in some cases to just skip the extorting part and just out them.
Given how image identification programs, including Google’s, have made doing this type of sleuthing – using a picture to identify someone based on their or other’s social media posts – I think everyone needs to be aware that this happened. This is especially so given how certain right wing and alt-right provocateurs are known for doxing individuals or selectively editing footage in pursuit of their own objectives. I highly recommend that if you see this going on you immediately take your own photos (if possible without putting oneself in danger) of the individuals doing this – don’t ask for permission, just do it, make a note of their approximate height, build, eye and hair color (if exposed), and their clothing and the masks they are wearing, as well as the direction they move off in and immediately contact the police. Especially if they are repeatedly setting off their flashes in a strobe fashion to prevent people from photographing them. Given that this can trigger epileptic seizures, you may have a criminal complaint on one’s hands.
Stay alert, stay alive! And stay Frosty!