The Lincoln Memorial has drawn presidents, civil rights leaders and tourists for generations, but a recent arrest has revealed that it also can be a magnet for a less savory category of visitor: voyeurs.
U.S. Park Police have charged a Springfield man after he allegedly used a camera with a telephoto lens to shoot “upskirt” photos of women sitting on the famous steps leading up to the memorial.
Park Police said the popular vantage point and site of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is “commonly used by individuals engaged in voyeuristic activity,” according to a search warrant affidavit filed in the case in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
Christopher Hunt Cleveland was arrested June 19 after an officer observed him snapping photos near the steps of the memorial, according to the search warrant. He appeared to be photographing women seated above him on the steps. Some of the women were wearing dresses.
Cleveland then walked to the Reflecting Pool, where the officer saw him shooting photos of women seated on steps there, according to the warrant. The officer became convinced that he was taking upskirt shots.
When officers approached Cleveland, he walked away and began to manipulate his camera and remove a memory card, according to the warrant. Officers told him to drop the camera, but he disobeyed and resisted arrest, authorities said in the warrant.
Officers reviewed Cleveland’s camera and found numerous shots of women’s crotches and buttocks, according to the warrant. Officers located one of the women, who told them that she had not given anyone consent to photograph her.
Cleveland was charged in D.C. Superior Court with voyeurism and assault on a police officer. He did not return a call for comment. His lawyer declined to comment.
During an interview after his arrest, Cleveland told investigators that he had visited the Lincoln Memorial several times in the previous months to photograph women, according to the warrant. Cleveland told them he did not think photographing women’s underwear was illegal.
Investigators later searched Cleveland’s car and found a laptop containing at least 150 PowerPoint slide presentations, each containing 30 or more upskirt images or images leading up to the shots, the warrant said.
The photos were taken at various locations in the D.C. area and dated back nearly a year, authorities said.
Authorities obtained the warrant to search Cleveland’s Fairfax County home, where they seized a computer, cameras and other items, according to the court papers.
U.S. Park Police declined to discuss the case.
When asked whether voyeurism is an issue at the memorial, Park Police spokesman Paul Brooks said, “I’m really not aware of that being a big problem, but I’m not in the investigative branch.”
However, it’s not the first such arrest at the site. A member of the elite federal air marshal program was reportedly sentenced to probation in 2008 for shooting photographs of women’s crotches on the steps of the memorial.