Ruled by Laws, Not by Men

Greetings from Bucharest, Romania.

I arrived here this afternoon along with four of my University of Miami (UM) colleagues to begin work on a month-long multimedia project documenting the plight of the Roma people in Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Another five of us will hit Bulgaria and Slovakia. We’re fortunate to be working not only with three of the most talented multimedia professionals in the world – Candace Barbot, Rich Beckman, and Travis Fox – but also with a number of journalists from the region who are familiar with the territory and the Roma stories.

I wanted to take a few moments to update everyone on the situation in Miami, vis-à-vis my having been “banned for life” from the Miami-Dade Metrorail. This was punishment Miami-Dade Transit’s (MDT) security contractor, “50 State Security,” imposed on Carlos Miller and I on Wednesday, June 30, after we made photographs at Miami’s Douglas Road metro stop and attempted to board one of the trains with our cameras. Strangely, MDT’s action was supported by both the Miami Police Department and the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Our response to this illegal, unconstitutional, and in my opinion conspiratorial action began as soon as we left the metro station, when I placed a phone call to Professor Sam Terilli, my media law professor at UM and the attorney representing me in this matter. Sam and I immediately began coordinating our response.

First on my list was to make multiple redundant backup copies of the raw media that I had collected at the scene. This included audio, video, and still images. I burned a DVD with one copy and slid it under the door to Sam’s office at the UM School of Communication, for safe, subpoena-proof keeping.

Next, I wrote down as clear and as concise a narrative as possible describing the incident. This is always important at times like these, because our memories of events change much faster than we realize. Writing down a blow-by-blow account not only helps to stimulate our memories, it ensures that details we recall are archived for future reference. This task was made easier by the copious amounts of audio and visual data I had recorded throughout the encounter. (I will post a representative selection of the images as soon as time allows.)

I finished this writing by about 3:00 Thursday morning, and sent it off for Sam to vet before I published it on my blog, which went live about 11:00am Thursday.

My next task was to begin to spread the word to relevant photography and photojournalism advocacy organizations. I e-mailed blog links to the National Press Photographers Association, the American Society of Media Photographers, and the Online News Association. By mid-day Thursday, Mickey Osterreicher, NPPA’s attorney, had already written letters to MDC and to the Miami Police Department. I have heard that the American Civil Liberties Union may become involved due to their ongoing interest in protecting photographers’ rights.

Meanwhile, Sam began taking action through the legal system. Though I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to go into details about what Sam is doing (all that will become public at the right time), I will share that he got in touch with the Society of Professional Journalists about case, and “reached out” to the appropriate legal representatives of Miami-Dade County (MDC).

For all of you who have asked about or encouraged legal redress, rest assured that through Sam’s efforts this process has already begun. It is a process that may move slowly, but we will be thorough, tenacious, and assured of the rightness of our position.

Because I will be out of the country until the end of July, I will be delayed until Early August from making another legal, peaceful, and determined attempt to make photographs on the Miami-Dade Metrorail. But this will happen. As I mentioned in the closing of my last post, I plan to ride the metro back and forth to UM during the fall semester, and no illegal, unjust, arbitrary, and in my mind somewhat comical “lifetime ban” is going to stop me.

Happy Fourth of July! I hope you’ve all enjoyed celebrating the fact that as Americans we live in a land ruled by laws, not by men.

2 Responses to “Ruled by Laws, Not by Men”

  1. Jon October 18, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    Any update here? I’m really interested in this subject in general, and in particular this specific case. Any chance of a mailing list for updates?

    EXCELLENT work, by the way. I was very impressed with the way you handled the situation, from identifying the project, your preparation, your communication with your attorney and the appropriate authorities, through your immediate action after the fact.

    Count me in for a demonstration, should it come to that. :)

  2. Stretch Ledford October 31, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    Hi, Jon. Thanks so much for your comments.

    I do have an update, a positive one, and I’ll get it posted in the next several days. I’ve been tied up since late August as my elderly mother fell ill and died (see my most recent post, “With Her Final Goodbye, a Final Lesson.”)

    Sorry that I didn’t follow up on the Miami-Dade Metro incidents sooner.

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