Oh, the poor pitiable paparazzi! Even as the public — or at least certain sizable segments of it — clamors for "news" about Hollywood celebrities, no one is willing to defend the shutterbugs who capture those trips to the hottest nightclubs, best rehab joints or even lowly police stations.
The most recent attempts to reign them in have included talk of new laws to create beautiful-people "safety zones," while others have said that just enforcing existing laws should be enough.
Specifically to prove that last point, Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies have arrested four paparazzi in the last two days for obstructing a public walkway, a misdemeanor. (Read the details in the AP report, if you’re interested.)
So why should First Amendment advocates care what happens to the lowly paparazzi? There is no doubt that state officials are taking action against them just because of the content of their expression — the celebrity photo — and would not normally have applied such an "obstruction" statute to someone standing on a sidewalk. The deputies are declaring that they have complete control over who can stand where to witness even trivial events, and letting such broad discretion aimed at those they don’t like go unchallenged can easily affect any journalist covering any story in the future.
As an editor of TMZ told AP, it makes sense to go after those few who are creating dangerous situations that threaten the safety of bystanders, but for the rest, we should all be able to tolerate a little crowding on a sidewalk.