Banned for Life from the Miami-Dade Metrorail

Be sure to read about the eventual resolution of this debacle here.

Wow. What a day. I’m 47 years old and got my first camera, a Canon AT-1, when I was 15 of so. In the intervening 32 years, I’ve made photographs both professionally and for my own personal enjoyment in 50 countries and in most of these beautiful United States of America. Photography has allowed me to see and experienced a lot of things, and yesterday I had an experience that I won’t forget for a long time. I’ll bet that some of the other folks involved – including but not limited to my friend Carlos Miller, various employees of a Miami company called “50 State Security,” three officers from the Miami Police Department, two officers from the Miami-Dade Police Department, and a gentleman who identified himself as an agent of the federal Department of Homeland Security – won’t forget it for a while either.

Where to begin? Those of you who are professional photographers can doubtless recount stories of this person or that person attempting to stop you from making photographs. It’s a common problem, and one that’s been around probably since Matthew Brady’s day. In some cases, these individuals have been well within their rights to stop us from photographing. Just off the top of my head I recall when:

  • The police in Cotonou, Benin, a small country in West Africa, told me to stop photographing on a city street back in the mid-1990’s and I had to comply.
  • A soldier armed with an AK-47 near Kikwit, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), stopped me from making photographs of a lightning storm from a bridge in 1993 and I did as I was told.
  • People in authority or who claimed to be in authority have asked or told me to stop photographing in Outer Mongolia, Bangladesh, Mozambique, India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and probably in other countries. I forget.
  • As recently as March of this year, while I was on assignment in Lagos, Nigeria, police officers detained me after they saw me making photographs of the city skyline from a public roadway. Though I stopped making pictures, I refused to get into their police vehicle and go to the station. We ended up in a bit of a stalemate for an hour or so, until they said I was free to go. (This is a story that ends very humorously and I will blog about it at another time. The police officers and I ended up being quite good friends!)

I generally stop making photographs, at least for a while, when I’m told to do so during a visit to a foreign country. Why? Well, because the rights of individuals in the countries I named above, and indeed in every country in the wide world except here in the US of A, aren’t protected by something called the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. That’s the little clause that here in America the Beautiful famously establishes individuals’ rights to freely assemble, to speak freely, to express themselves freely in manners other than speech, and to exercise freedom of the press.

Which brings us back to yesterday’s excellent adventure.

As a graduate student in the multimedia journalism program at the University of Miami’s School of Communication, I was assigned a project as part of Professor Sam Terilli’s 2010 Media Law and Ethics Seminar (CNJ 614) that called upon me to create a report concerning one of the class topics – the “legal and ethical issues concerning First Amendment theories and practices regarding defamation, privacy, freedom of information, free press vs. fair trial, reporter privilege, access to media, intellectual property, obscenity, broadcasting, and new media.”

Back in October or so, 2009, I had been harassed by a security guard because I brought a camera into Miami’s Overtown Metrorail station. At the time this seemed to be really unfair, unkind, and, most of all, quite unconstitutional, so for the media law assignment I decided to explore the rights that a person has, or does not have, to make photographs on, in, and around Miami-Dade Transit’s (MDT’s) Metrorail system.

Though I already felt that I had a pretty good layman’s understanding of the relevant laws, and I was certain that Professor Terilli had taught me well in CNJ 614, I wanted to double and triple check my facts. After a little work on Monday, June 28, I found that, as Victor Perlman, general counsel for the American Society of Media Photographers, was quoted saying in this NPR story, “If [someone is] photographing something that is visible from a public space while on a public space, there are virtually no laws that really prohibit that.” I know that Mr. Perlman is very good at what he does, and his statement confirmed my layman’s understanding of the law.

With this in mind, I began to exchange e-mails and phone calls with Eric Muntan, MDT’s Chief of Safety and Security and one of the nicest and most helpful public servants I’ve ever encountered. Mr. Muntan not only responded to my e-mails quickly, he sent me a copy of section 30b-5(2) of the Miami-Dade County Code, which regulates commercial activities on or around MDT property. Mr. Muntan also rearranged his schedule on Tuesday, June 29, in order for me to conduct a telephone interview with him at 7:00 am. As we began the interview, he graciously consented for me to make an audio recording of the conversation to ensure the accuracy of my contemporaneous notes. Would that all public officials were so willing to assist their constituents.

During our discussion, Mr. Muntan shared with me that his first concern is for the safety and security of Metrorail’s passengers, but he also expressed a sincere appreciation for the fact that some people, for one reason or another, will want to make photographs of the metro trains and facilities and that MDT needs to accommodate these folks. To this end, Mr. Muntan said, “We bend over backward to accommodate any type of media request that we can. Heck, we’ve shut down the system for Burn Notice and we did Bad Boyz II down here.” He explained that while commercial photography on Metrorail property is prohibited without a permit, there is no such prohibition against photography that is personal, journalistic, or, in his words, “Johnny Tourist” photography. When I asked him how his officers distinguish between commercial photography and personal photography, he said, “If you tell us that you’re not using the pictures for commercial work and they’re (for) personal use, at that point in time the security officers, and/or the MDT representative should feel that his question is answered and at that point you’re free to take pictures until the next train comes or whatever.” (The irony of this statement will hit you as you continue to read…)

Here is the recording of our conversation, edited for brevity and clarity:

Telephone Interview with Miami-Dade Transit Chief of Security Eric Muntan

WOW! It all seemed so simple! The only detail that I felt I didn’t clearly understand was something Mr. Muntan called MDT’s “post orders,” which he said set forth the “standard operating procedure” for guards on MDT property, including procedures for enforcing county code section 30b. I asked for a copy of these post orders, even a copy redacted for security purposes, and Mr. Muntan promised to have ask his staff mail it to me. Unfortunately, I never received the document, despite having followed up with Mr. Muntan about it via e-mail.

In any event, because I had read about the county’s well documented problems with the Wackenhut guards who provided security for the MDT stations up until November 3, 2009, I thought it would be judicious of me to chat with a representative of the current company that the county contracts to do the work, “50 State Security,” and get his take on things.

After several phone calls that were never returned, yesterday morning at about 11:30 I finally made contact with the company’s president, John Williams. His interpretation of “30b” and his willingness to trust MDT passengers when they tell his security guards why they’re making pictures was as different from Mr. Muntan’s as day is from night… as fire is from ice… as love is from hate… as steak is from eggs… um, well, you get the picture.

Mr. Williams stated, “All we would know is what you tell us and we would not stand by that. We would ask you to identify yourself and if you didn’t have a permit we would ask you to leave. In fact… you would have to leave or we would notify law enforcement of the situation. We would need approval from the county, a form that the county provides us.” He went on to say that anyone who does not have that form would be prevented from making photographs on MDT property.

Hmmm… a conundrum…

After speaking with Mr. Williams, it seemed to me that the only way to get to the bottom of the situation and to really understand what rights a MDT passenger has or does not have with regard to photography was to head to a nearby metro station, make some photos, and see what would happen.

Though I hoped to make photographs in and around the Douglas Road metro stop to send to my lovely wife in Richmond and to use in my report, and to then be on my merry way, I prepared for the worst. If Mr. Williams’ people were trained as he said they were, rather than as Mr. Muntan said they should be, then there was a decent chance that I would be arrested while making my pictures and go to jail. So I took a few precautions:

  • I sent an e-mail to my local attorney, Sam Terilli (yep, the same man who taught my media law class), letting him know where I was going and what I was hoping to do there.
  • I wrote Sam’s cell number in permanent ink on several public and not so public places on my body.
  • I printed a copy of the e-mail Mr. Muntan sent me that included the text of the “30b” statute and stuck it in my pocket.

Finally, I called my friend Carlos Miller, whose blog, “Photography Is Not a Crime,” may be the most comprehensive database anywhere of incidents of police harassment of photographers. (Carlos says he has chronicled more than 800 such incidents since April, 2007.) I wanted someone to be at the metro stop with me to document anything that was going to happen, and Carlos agreed to meet me at the station with his video camera.

Carlos and I arrived at the station about 2:30pm. I proceeded to make some photos and videos with my Canon 5d Mark II, and Carlos proceed to make videos of me making videos. I can only describe the events that followed as absolutely astounding.

Not astounding because a person in a uniform tried to prevent me from making photographs; astounding because it all took place in the United States of America. We weren’t in Benin, or Zaire, or Brazil, or Outer Mongolia or any of the countries I mentioned at the beginning of this little novella. We were in the United States, once known as the Home of the Free, standing on public property, property that my tax dollars helped to purchase, being denied constitutional rights that my uncle Charles Constance, Jr., in the Battle of the Bulge, my father Charles Edward Ledford in Korea, and my brother Lt. Col. Edward Curtis Ledford who by the time he returns home in March will have spent more than three years in Afghanistan and ten months in Iraq, each selflessly defended.

Carlos and I had not even left the parking lot when a “50 State Security” guard approached me and said that due to “terrorism” it was “against the law” for me to make photographs at the station. From there, things went steadily downhill.

I purchased a ticket so I could ride the metro down to the University of Miami station and back, about a two-dollar investment, but I was physically prevented from entering the turnstile by a “50 State Security” guard. The guards called the Miami Police and three officers eventually arrived. Although I tried to show the officers the e-mail from Mr. Muntan, the chief of security for MDT, the officers either wouldn’t read the e-mail or told me that it was irrelevant and that the private security guards were within their rights to bar me from the station.

Unbelievably, I was told by one of the police officers that if I was to walk through the turnstile and the security guard was to physically detain me, that I would be arrested for assault. Though I kept hoping that cooler heads would prevail, it seemed that the more police officers and security personnel that arrived at the scene, the more adamant and single-minded they became about preventing me from entering the station, with or without a camera. (This in spite of the fact that at least one person with a camera entered the station and another exited the station during the three-plus hours that I spent trying to get in.)

None of the ten or so police officers and security guards that eventually showed up for this little feté – including one individual who claimed to be with Homeland Security – would break rank. The Thin Blue Line was drawn taught, and it was not going to be broken by means of reason, nor facts, nor even a printed copy of the county statute this fraternity was so determined to enforce. Of this they were certain.

They took down both my and Carlos’ identification information, several times actually. A City of Miami cop called me a liar to my face. A Miami-Dade County officer who would only give his name as “S. Ruesga” told me with a straight face that I clearly was making photos for commercial gain because I would gain a “grade” from my professor for this project. He didn’t see the illogic of his statement even when I informed him of he fact that I’m paying the University of Miami about $75,000 to attend graduate school, though I think he appreciated the fact that our conversation had begun to deteriorate into something akin to the “battle of wits” between Vizzini and Westley in “The Princess Bride”:

Here is an audio clip of the similar conversation in which Mr. Ruesga and I found ourselves:

“But I Would Know That You Would Know That I Know… and…”

And here’s a clip of the longer conversation. At the end, Mr. Ruesga confesses that he isn’t really clear about the law that he was trying to enforce:

Semi-fascinating Exchange Between Miami-Dade Police Officer Ruesga and Me

The “homeland security” guy stated more than once that I had actually said that I was making photographs for commercial purposes. Of course because this will probably be his defense in any future legal action that may grow out of this incident, he would not allow me to correct him even though I tried several times.

So eventually, Carlos and I left, but not before getting as many of the officers’ names and badge numbers as possible, and, best of all, not before allowing Sam Terilli to listen over my phone as the “homeland security” guy dared Sam to issue him a subpoena.

Oh… and not before we were informed by several of the brethren that both Carlos and I were now banned for life from riding the Miami-Dade metro. I leave it up to Sam and the courts to ensure that by the middle of August I actually am allowed to ride the metro. I’m planning to ride the trains as I commute to the university for the fall semester, when I start teaching basic photojournalism to malleable young minds that need to understand that the rights they take for granted every day can only be guaranteed if someone is willing to fight back when those rights are threatened.

“You have the right to free speech. As long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it.”
-Joe Strummer of The Clash
(1952 – 2002)

Be sure to read about the eventual resolution of this debacle here.

117 Responses to “Banned for Life from the Miami-Dade Metrorail”

  1. mkhall July 1, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Great story, Stretch! I’m eagerly anticipating the next installment.

  2. Tom Stedham July 1, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    Banned for LIFE??? I can’t wait to read about your successful lawsuit against these uninformed idiots… New cameras!!!

  3. Vic Perlman July 1, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

    Wow, Stretch, I’m sorry to hear about this. I have forwarded a link to some people at national and several state ACLU’s who have expressed interest in the harassment of photographers. I hope that you and/or I will hear back from them. In the meantime, if ASMP or I can be of any assistance, please let me know.

    Best,
    Vic

    PS: Thanks for the kind words!

  4. chuck liddy July 1, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    I sincerely hope that you guys could get several hundred camera wielding citizens to converge on these metro stops and start making photos. I also hope these uniformed, idiotic minimum wage rent a cops are fired. and shame on the miami-dade police officers who buy into this lunacy. keep up the great work.

  5. Razor Dog July 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Whoa! I would hate to know what would happen to a Latino tourist trying to do what you’ve done. Try that in Arizona?

  6. mkhall July 1, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    I think Chuck has a great idea. Maybe there should be a blogger meeting or tweet-up or some such thing at a Metrorail station, and have everyone bring cameras, a movable feast of civil rights activism.

  7. Kelly Simmons July 1, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    Amazing, You should make sure the people at the Miami Herald see this.

  8. Karen Rosen July 1, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    Inconceivable!

    Stretch, great job covering all the bases, but too bad law enforcement was too pig-headed to look at your documentation.

    How are you going to be banned for life? Will there be a poster of you at all turnstiles? If I lived in Miami, I’d gladly buy your monthly passes for you!

  9. Jim Wrinn July 1, 2010 at 4:34 pm #

    Stretch,
    Hate these idiots think they’re in the Soviet Union. I’m sharing your blog with a retired attorney who specializes in transit systems that have gone astray in the name of national security. Jim

  10. Will Olbrys July 1, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    The problem isn’t that our rights are being taken away. The problem is that the people who work for the transit are trapped by the fear of authority. They cannot make a decision for themselves out of fear of losing their jobs. They become more staunch in their opposition of your desires, because they are determined to flex what little muscle they have to control the situation. The police love to do this so the situation only becomes aggravated by their presence. If there is terror in this world its a terror brought on by poverty and ignorance.

  11. karl mach July 1, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

    What’s needed here is a large group of people with cameras to photograph and ride this system, and to have some news reporter or two along so this shameful show of paranoia is alive and well in this country.didn’t Bush tell the American people after 9/11 to continue on with life and not let this terrorist act alter our every day life or the enemy will win ? I don’t think these idiots ever herd bus’s speech and was there a terrorist act against this rail system as one of the rent a cops said ? what a joke.

  12. James July 1, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    Great job! I can hardly wait for the next stage in this. You must prevail in exercising what is sold to us as our American rights.

    Another issue related to this one is how private commercial concerns are relying more on cameras to keep an eye on us but not allowing us to use cameras to watch them. Almost any business establishment we enter today has multiple cameras trained on us and yet they refuse our right to watch them. Since private businesses have more rights to stringent rules than public entities over cameras, we need to start to demand that they allow us to watch them less we no longer support their businesses.

  13. TJ July 1, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    THREE WORDS: CAMERA FLASH MOB!

  14. Kevin Mellema July 1, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

    The first thing to remember here is everybody on scene is there trying to do the right thing. The second… as you allude to in your travel reports.. the guys with the guns make the rules at the scene.

    Once you get into a test of wills with the cops you’ve automatically lost.

    It’s all about stopping terrorism .. which we’re all on board for… the greater question is more one of.. is stopping photography stopping terrorism ???

    There are reported cases when that in fact has been the case… but over all is that a factual concern?? Probably not.

    Was this in fact the best use of 10 officer’s time?? It takes 10 guys to stop two non-violent guys with cameras???

    It’s a complicated issue.. and clearly all the players aren’t using the same rule book. Which typically seems to require someone to press the issue in court so everybody does get on the same page.

    The cops are not lawyers. Their higher authority is going to be their superior officers, and what they told them to do.. or as we all know… what their gut instinct tells them to do on the fly. None of which is per se based in legalese.

    The whole thing is a farce of course, but it’s a little more complex than that. …and yea, a flash wielding flash-mob would be a very interesting wrench to throw into this equation….

  15. Kathy Walton July 1, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

    @Kevin –

    The issue is not complicated at all. The rules are clear. It’s simply going to take more people like Stretch and Carlos (and me and every other photographer) to keep pushing back until these clowns understand that *they* are breaking the rules, not us.

  16. Andrew July 1, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    Do you guys have nothing better to do than to ‘test’ people’s knowledge of the law and waste people’s time? There’s a reason why photography and video taping is banned at places like these. These photographers may not be terrorists and may not mean any harm but most likely they will post their end result on the web somewhere for the entire world to see.

  17. Eric Fry July 1, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    I’m glad that I found your and Carlos’ sites from PetaPixel. I’ve been looking for something new to do with my photography, and I’m about to start challenging the idiots here in Houston.

  18. rogerhee July 2, 2010 at 12:02 am #

    Yeah! Flash mob time. But wait! Make sure it’s non-commerical!!

  19. Wheeler July 2, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    What a great story! I wish I could have shared this with my Media Ethics class. It definitely would have opened up some great discussions!

  20. Jamie July 2, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    @Andrew – so, you believe in security through obscurity? The key to the safety of America is, er, preventing anyone from being able to see pictures of our transit systems?

    Likewise, you think that there aren’t already hundreds of pictures available of everything they might photograph, or that any potential terrorist couldn’t just go there themselves?

    Finally, even if there was any value to such pictures to a potential terrorist, discreet camera equipment is astonishingly inexpensive. Anyone with a couple hundred bucks can buy a camera that could never be detected by security. This isn’t 1960.

    It doesn’t work. The law serves no purpose but to further erode the rights of citizens. Besides which, they didn’t even break any law. Which of the terrorist attacks on American soil do you think would have been prevented by a ban on photography? Why do you think that elsewhere in the world, where photography does not enjoy the freedom it does here, there are far more terrorist attacks? There is no relationship between the two.

  21. Ruth July 2, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    I’ve got some biases both ways. I’m a UM grad who majored in journalism. I’m also a former secretary at UM’s School of Law. In fact, I probably have seen your lawyer in the elevator a time or two. I now work for the County. I think everyone knows that when the police cites someone or makes an arrest, there’s really no point in trying to make your case by the roadside. Police don’t adjudicate. So you can’t really blame them for holding the thin blue line where your issue is concerned, much less the security guards. That being said, do you think a lawsuit is the best way to increase understanding of this issue? What about arbitration or a public hearing? You seem very sure of your position, but have you considered what it’s like to be in law enforcement and be responsible for the lives of millions of transit riders each day? I’m not saying you’re wrong to be outraged, but this was a misunderstanding plain and simple. You seem to be ready to make a federal case out of it.

  22. Bridgettt July 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    @Ruth:

    Umm Ruth, it IS a Federal Issue. Last time I checked the Constitution is a Federal thing!!! What is happening to these photographers is a violation of their Constitutional rights and people like you who would take those rights away for whatever reason are a blight on those that have fought and died to protect our rights.

  23. Ruth July 2, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

    @Bridgettt, I agree it’s a federal issue, but what I see here is a lot of posturing on both sides and not any real attempt at learning and understanding. I don’t think a lawsuit is the way to go about it.

  24. Peter Bruyneel July 2, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    I totally concur with Will Olbrys.
    Higher officials in the security and law enforcement exactly hire these kind of people who are to dumb to think for them selves.
    If they were told that one and one is three any and anyone who would say different is a national security treat and need to be arrested , they would do it, no question.
    The good side of this is that even stupid people can get a job in the USA , the bad side is that we’re not able to educate them.

  25. NoelArmourson July 2, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    @Ruth: Unfortunately, a lawsuit may be the only way to go about it. Court orders and large payouts provide management with incentive to properly retrain the troops.

  26. Scott July 2, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    So basically you were detained for three hours for the crime of questioning a cop.

    Yep, free country.

  27. Scott F. July 2, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    I’d like to suggest a Miami/Dade Photo Day and have all amateur photographers choose a specific day and time to board the Metrorail from ALL stations for the express purpose of taking non-commercial photos.

  28. LJM July 2, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    @Ruth, Carlos and Charles did their “learning and understanding” before they went to the Metro. It’s a very, very simple thing. The officers’ job is to enforce the law. And the officers’ are obviously unaware or unconcerned with the law. That’s it. That’s all there is. The only people who evidently need to “learn and understand” are the officers in the video. If their job is so hard that it forces them to occasionally forget the law and to waste valuable time harassing harmless citizens, then they should get a job they can handle. There are absolutely, positively NOT two sides to this story.

  29. David G. July 2, 2010 at 10:24 pm #

    You want a copy of 30B? Here it is – freely available online – http://library.municode.com/HTML/10620/level2/PIII_C30B.html

    Good luck in your future attempts to get this “outlawed” activity corrected.

  30. Other Scott July 3, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    @Ruth, “have you considered what it’s like to be in law enforcement and be responsible for the lives of millions of transit riders each day? I’m not saying you’re wrong to be outraged, but this was a misunderstanding plain and simple.”

    I don’t give a lick of spit that these cops may or may not have a tough job. What I do care about is that any cop in any jurisdiction has far greater power to make my life hell for any reason, real or contrived, than I have power to make his or her life hell. What was plainly evident in this video was ignorance on the part of the cops and rent-a-cops, obfuscation by same, and a disgusting insistence in digging in their heels when the facts were plainly and obviously against them. The only reason that Stretch nor Carlos were hauled in right then and there was that these two were so well-prepared before going in. I might add that calling your lawyer during a roadside interrogation seems to be highly effective at triggering a cop’s Career Preservation Instinct ;)

    The only reasonable argument against a lawsuit is that it isn’t the cops who will suffer. It’s the taxpayers of the municipality that will foot the bill. Qualified Immunity ensures that the worst penalty an actual, sworn-in peace officer will endure is a paid vacation while the investigation is conducted (and which will conclude with the determination that they followed SOP to the letter, natch).

    Still, it’d be worth it just to force those smug pricks with badges to testify and have their lies laid bare for the courts.

  31. Corporate photographer London July 3, 2010 at 1:35 am #

    Its going the same way in the UK now- police are stopping photographers taking shots in London as they pose a threat to national security! Grant

  32. Jon Lindsay July 3, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    Amazing but disturbing story Stretch. Watching law enforcement officers and these private guards who increasingly do not seem to understand the very laws they hope to implement is a worry. The only thing to do is sue which is always a hassle but you have to hit them in the wallet. Sometimes it’s the only way to get change.
    Always enjoyed your pics as well !

  33. perlhaqr July 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    Andrew, an ignorant tool, said: Do you guys have nothing better to do than to ‘test’ people’s knowledge of the law and waste people’s time? There’s a reason why photography and video taping is banned at places like these.

    Did you actually read the post? Photography and video taping is not banned at this facility. That’s the entire point of the exercise.

    Reading Comprehension: It’s not just for Kindergarten.

  34. JIm Kilpatrick July 3, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    How about suing them for violation of 18USC Section 241 and 242, to the effect of “conspiring to deny civil rights.” Or, maybe, going to the local DA’s office and insisting that charges be filed against all governmental entities involved and all officers individually involved?

    Any legal eagles with opinion on this would be great.

  35. Ralph Mendez Cr. Photog. July 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    I get the security point of view but this is still America, Land of the Free! If there is a law then there is a law, but give it to us in writing. Let us know the law ( and everyone else)! They are idiots! Burns Me!

  36. JIm Kilpatrick July 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    @Ruth: HELLO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!: These are suppose to be “professional law enforcement officers”. They have a DUTY to KNOW THE LAW and to enforce THE LAW. Just like if you sue a “professional insurance agent”, the excuse that they “misunderstood” the laws pertaining to their “profession” won’t hold water with a court neither will, nor should under any circumstances, such a defense by an “only one JBT.” There’s no excuse. Sue them all – government entities and all individual officers involved – AND insist the DA file any and all charges possible that are applicable to the case. The only way to stop Police State abuse is to fight it wherever, whenever if occurs vigorously!

    There’s no excuse for the Public Bullies ignorance of the law nor disdain and contempt for their masters – the American people!
    Whether government employees at all levels in this country want to acknowledge it or not they ARE STILL “PUBLIC SERVANTS” and we the people need to ensure they RE-LEARN this fact.

  37. JIm Kilpatrick July 3, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    @OtherScott: The taxpayers will actually benefit from the outcome of the cases as, hopefully (unless the judge is a statist, oath breaking scumbag – and yes we have way too many of them in the judiciary these days), there will be fewer “ignorant of the law” uniformed gangbangers out there wrongfully harassing we the people.

    Further, the taxpayers should be more judicious about those they elect to power and support.

    The taxpayers having to pick up the costs of defending those they allow to be placed in postions of power who then abuse that power and the people themselves is NO REASONABLE EXCUSE!

  38. Jamie July 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    @Ruth: I understand where you’re coming from; I really do. I used to be less militant about these things, and attempted to reason with people about photography.

    My mind changed gradually, and now I think it is very, very important to press the point, as Stretch and Carlos are doing here.

    What changed my mind is that we see a very common pattern emerging: when asked, the security apparatus we have (I’m combining public, such as cops and DHS personnel with private security because the pattern is consistent) will typically tell you the truth: that photography is not a crime. But then when on the ground, this situation happens. Consistently. There appears to be a non-official fear of cameras* that leads to the people with these “very difficult jobs” to attempt to suppress them whenever possible. This means that, whatever the official policy is, the people with guns are operating under different rules, as is evident here.

    I don’t believe in allowing this sort of unofficial law to take hold; it is, bluntly, unamerican. I also believe that if we allow the sort of ubiquitous surveillance that is forming right now to be one sided – that is, if we allow the cameras to only point at the public, and not at the public servants, then it is simply human nature that those public servants will abuse the power that gives them. This isn’t conspiracy mindedness – it is simply the way people function, and always have. One of the important parts of what makes the U.S. such a great nation is our dedication to transparent laws. Unfortunately, history has demonstrated again and again that fighting to keep it that way is a constant struggle.

    So, while it may look overheated or quixotic to worry about these things to such a degree, please keep in mind that this isn’t just about two people being jerks to some security guards. This is going on all over the country, and it is bigger than just the right to take some photos of trains. It is about ensuring that our public servants stay just that – our servants, not our masters. We are a long, long way from being a country like East Germany was, and Stretch and Carlos are fighting to keep it that way.

    *As usual, the reality is slightly more complicated. The fear seems to be only of cameras recording when the subsequent images are not under the control of the security enforcers in question.

  39. Stretch July 3, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    Greetings all.

    I just wanted go thank everyone for taking time to post your thoughts and opinions. I also appreciate the overwhelming support.

    I will post an update soon. Right now, however, I’m at the British airways counter in the miami airport, boarding a flight for Europe where I will be on assignment until the end of the month. So time is short. More soon –

    More soon –

    Stretch

  40. Shrimp July 3, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

    I wonder if Mr. Muntan would be interested in taking a ride on the Metrorail with you (no warnings to Mr. Williams or his crew) to see how effectively his security detail is treating the camera carrying public.

    Mr. Muntan would get quite the eye-opening experience, and Mr. Williams and crew might be looking for a new contract so they can harass innocent citizens.

    Just an idea.

  41. NancyGee July 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    So a nuclear power plant is a “public facility” and so would a water reservoir be. Are the security people who may or may not be overstepping their bounds prohibited from checking on tourists wearing burka’s and fez’s who want to take many many many pictures of the comings and goings of these installations?

    How about anyone named Mohammad who wants to take pictures of a couple of buildings in Manhattan or that world-famous public building, the Pentagon?

    I work in the U.S. Bank Building in downtown Los Angeles, which is named the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Security in the building is usually on high alert, and I’ve seen them shoo off camera-people sometimes. Interestingly, I’ve also observed blonde Germans and chuckling Asians clicking away uninterrupted, so there does seem to be some stereotyping going on.

    And in that case, if you come from a group that is stereotyped as being explosive, disruptive or lawsuit happy, then you need to embrace that reality. And maybe start looking inward to see what you can do to change your group’s image, as opposed to leaving the rest of us open and vulnerable to the true whacko’s of the world.

    I think if I were on a jury judging these security people’s reaction to a premeditated gotcha sting, I’d be inclined to acquit. And to consider that the person reporting said gotcha is a member of that Obama elite group of academia who are pretty much totally responsible for America being turned into the Marxist state we’re headed towards.

    Now if he wanted to carry a gun along with his camera …

  42. Carroll Brown July 4, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    You know, the cops were probably wrong, but it kinda rubs me the wrong way when these people go to a place, intentionally and obviously trying to start trouble and cause a scene.

  43. bob r July 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    One of the things that stood out to me was one of the cops threatening to “confiscate” the camera film/memory as “evidence” if Stretch and/or Carlos were arrested. I interpret that as an implied threat to make the film disappear — which has in fact happened before.

    It appears that some type of device that makes a “backup” of the camera memory while the video is being made would be _very_ useful.

  44. LJM July 4, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    Carroll, there would have been no trouble to start if the officers had done their job properly. Taking pictures is not “causing trouble.” Trusting the government so much that we never test it is a sure step towards authoritarianism.

  45. LJM July 4, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    NancyGee, it’s funny you’re so worried about becoming a Marxist state, while you have no problem with a more powerful government limiting the freedom of individuals, which is how authoritarian states really begin.

  46. Spiny Norman July 4, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    The pathetic joke here is that at this point the *majority* of Metro riders are carrying a camera phone, and thousands of them already have latest-generation smartphones like the iPhone 4 that are capable of shooting good hi-def video. Even if noncommercial photography were banned — which it manifestly is not — the law would be totally laughable.

    Digital audio and video capture is ubiquitous. There is no way to stop it. The only thing that they can do is ban people with big, obvious cameras. And those people, obviously, are not security threats. The ability to control photography — never robust in the first place — is now simply gone and both the law, and The Law are (as usual) way behind the curve.

    The entire thing is a pathetic, useless, oppressive joke, perpetrated by officials who are themselves pathetic, useless, oppressive jokes.

  47. Jordan July 5, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    Good for you for asserting your rights. Hope the whole thing works out in your favour.

  48. Toivo Voll July 5, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    I applaud your efforts in this matter; it’s an issue of civil liberties and basic freedoms. Specifically, if citizens and subjects aren’t permitted to observe or document how the government works, how can they hold government accountable?
    I was in the US under a visitor visa, so I was in a much worse situation and could not afford to be arrested or have any official record made; I and a friend of mine were detained at the Tampa Aquarium / Channelside / Cruise terminal for taking pictures of the city from the parking garage. This was pure hobby, not professional or commercial — not that anyone ever asked. Having showed the sheriff the pictures we had taken, and explained that it is one of the few places that has an unobstructed view of the downtown skyline, we were informed that photography is not allowed at the Aquarium / Channelside / Cruise terminal facility. This, of course, is patently ludicrous as all three are major tourist destinations, lousy with families with cameras in hand. When asked how we would go about getting permission to take pictures there, we were informed that there is no way, and we’d be arrested if we were to ever return to the area with cameras.

  49. Ken Poole July 5, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    A truly unfortunate incident and one possible outcome I can see from this is simply the creation of new laws to make sure the police and security guards will be within their rights to not only detain you (not arrest you but simply detain you for as long as they wish. Subjects of arrest down there in the States, while I watch from Canada, seem to have some rights while detainees seem to have none.) but also to take and destroy your equipment and beat you up.

    Each time someone tries to forcibly assert their rights it only demonstrates to the paranoid that there are “holes” in the laws that need fixing.

    Don’t worry. We face the same problems here in Canada and there are lots of places you don’t want to be caught taking pictures here as well although why someone would think of a small shopping mall in Delta as a terrorist target. I was taking a few pictures to evaluate a digital camera I was considering purchasing from a shop in that mall.

  50. anon July 5, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    God dammit position:fixed is annoying. Stop using it.

    Though this privoxy filter should deal with the annoyance, along with any adverts. Win-win for the user.

    FILTER: pf Get rid of position: fixed
    s|position:fixed;|position:\ static;\ /\*\ Changed\ by\ Privoxy\ \*/\ |g

    It ain’t perfect, but it’s a start.

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