The Cry Baby is on sabbatical ....

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The crime of photography: Student detained for filming train

9/11 changed many things in the western world, one of the most important being the loss of our feeling of security. Just who is the enemy and who should we be suspicious of? If you follow the old cold war communist method, every citizen is spy and has a duty to report any anti-social activity to the authorities. In countries where freedom is limited, citizens can be stopped and forced to produce their "papers" or face the consequences. In the U.S. and Canada, we live in free societies and in theory, do not have to submit to random demands the violate our rights.

What makes the incident in this video so sad is that it is happening in a free country and the person in question is quite obviously harmless and not breaking the law. The deaf university student in the video could have taken a much easier route and complied with the transit police when he was accosted, but he took and more difficult route and stood up for his rights.

Here is what he had to say about the incident:
"This incident occurred at the Cultural Center station in Baltimore, Maryland on March 21, 2011. I was visiting from Oregon, and as part of my career interests, I explored the transit systems of Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston. In each and every one of those cities, except for Baltimore, I had no problems photographing these amazing systems. 
This incident in Baltimore started with me enroute from the B&O Railroad Museum to Penn Station. I had boarded a light-rail train at the Convention Center, but realized that I needed to be on a "Penn Station" bound train, so I stepped off at Cultural Center Station in order to board the correct train. While waiting for my train, I snapped a photo or two of passing trains, and was immediately inundated with police officers confronting me about my photography. I also had a video camera on hand, so this entire incident, except for the last bit at Penn Station, was recorded. 
MTA Police finally gave back my farecard and ordered me to "cease and desist," but continued to surround and bother me until I boarded the next Penn Station train. They followed me to Penn Station and got Amtrak Police involved. I felt at that point I had no choice but to give Amtrak Police my ID so they could conduct a warrant check. If the MTA Police hadn't followed me, Amtrak Police most likely would have not conducted this security check based on my experiences at various Amtrak stations between Washington DC and Boston. The Amtrak Police Officer was truthful about the fact that there was no prohibition against taking pictures of trains or train stations, so his honesty is what also compelled me to give my ID. He was, in my opinion, dragged into this fiasco because of MTA Police. 
I have no qualms with MTA Police inquiring what I'm doing, but the fact that they took it to the next level with so many lies, unreasonable detainment, denying my boarding of my train that caused me to be delayed and following me to delay me further; this whole episode of theirs was unprofessional and perhaps unconstitutional. I am posting this video in hopes to further strengthen photographer's constitutional rights.
I am also being represented by ACLU of Maryland. 
Photography is not a crime. As long as you're on public property, or in a publicly accessible place like a subway station, you are allowed to take photographs.
It's your First Amendment right! 
You do not have to stop recording, or delete anything from your camera. Police must have a warrant to search or seize your camera. Do not let ill-informed police officers deter you from enjoying your hobby of photography."

Here is part two of the video:


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