Editor’s note: What follows is freelance photographer Frank Klein’s account of an incident he says occurred at Honfest on June 9.
Honfest provides a venue for vendors to sell their goods to thousands of festival-goers experiencing Hampden’s eclectic pride, but, like many of the city’s festivals, it is occasionally visited by people who have had one too many. At times, this can create problems, as it did for me at this year’s Honfest.
My original assignment was to capture the festival’s first drag-queen pageant, sponsored by Dreamland Clothing. When it was canceled due to lack of entries, I still went to the festival to obtain some images. When I saw the perfect subject matter—a group of five or six 8-to-12-year-old girls having an ice fight—I ran over as fast as I could while holding the plethora of power units belted to my waist, several high-tech strobes, lenses, and both mono- and tripods.
When I got to the girls, I realized they were fast running out of ice, so I asked them to slow down for me. I then found I had accidentally hit a program function on my camera, so none of the first 10 images I took showed a thing. While fixing this, I did not notice the giant, violent drunken man, with three other large men, focusing on me. By the time I lifted my camera back up, I was able to catch him ripping one of the girl’s cups of ice from her and running toward me.
I started backing away from him, and managed to get a shot of him throwing a cup of ice water directly at my $6,000 camera. He got me and my equipment, while backing me into a vendor’s table, which I flipped over as I apologized to the vendor. In my estimation, three crimes had been committed: assault, battery, and malicious destruction of property.
I had recently passed numerous police officers, but now not one was anywhere to be seen. I noticed a few men starting to walk in my direction to help, then turning away once they noticed the size of the four men involved. After I told the attackers the crimes they had committed, and that I had photos and witnesses, they threatened the 50 or so people standing there, telling them to say they didn’t see a thing.
“Your dumb ass just fell over a table ’cause you can’t walk straight,” one of them said, or something to that effect. At this point they were trying to get out of Dodge, I believe, because they were being taunted by the girls whose ice cups they’d stolen while members of the crowd were shouting, “We saw ya!” One bystander, who looked like a mixed-martial-arts fighter, asked me what happened. After telling him, I asked him to please not go near them, but, as a former jiujitsu instructor, I could tell this guy was determined to confront them.
At that point, I went and found a police officer. She looked at the photos in my camera, saw my media ID issued by the Baltimore Police Department, and put out an all-points bulletin for the men. She asked me if I wanted to stay and watch them be arrested. I told her I had to get to the office, but that there were over 50 witnesses, so they would not have a problem identifying the perps.
I can’t wait to hear from the police to see if they caught these guys, and I wonder if the main guy will be shamed by having his photo published. Maybe then, they won’t be high-fiving, saying, “Look what we did to this City Paper photographer. We ruined his camera, knocked him over a vendor’s table, and made an ass out of him.” I trust the people of Hampden won’t stand for fools like this preying on people weaker than them.
As I walked up the block, gossip about the incident had beaten me there. I heard people talking about a photographer who was attacked by several large drunks and thrown over a vendor’s table. It was nice to hear.