Photo by Christopher Fussell
UPDATE: MTA Chief Ralign T. Wells has come out against agency employees who have sought to prohibit photography, telling the Baltimore Sun, “We don’t have a policy restricting photography. The actions of some of these officers are not reflective of the agency stance.” He said he will work to settle with the ACLU before any lawsuit can be filed.
The Maryland ACLU may sue on behalf of Christopher Fussell, a train enthusiast, who was taking photos of a Baltimore train station and told to stop this past March. Fussell takes photos of trains and railroad stations all over the US — he takes about 15,000 to 20,000 a year — but it was the Charm City that gave him trouble. He was taking photos of Baltimore’s Cultural Center station when an employee ordered him to stop and threatened to call police.
As The Baltimore Sun reports:
The [ACLU] warned that unless the agency meets a series of conditions by Sept. 1, it will take the MTA to court — where it expects to win.
Civil libertarians and rights advocates say police have been given no new powers to curb photography since 9/11. In many cases, they say, police are making up laws and rules on the spot and issuing orders they have no right to give.
Interestingly, the ACLU worked to settle a 2006 incident amicably, where one of their own staffers was told to stop taking photos by the MTA, but they say they’re not going that route this time. Staff Attorney David Rocah says they’ve been trying that for five years and it hasn’t brought about change.
Often it takes a big lawsuit to get people’s attention.
Photo by maisa_nyc
Since when do MTA workers care what anyone does in the subway stations?
This past weekend, a group of transit workers at the 9th Avenue station in Brooklyn harassed photographer Maki Isayama, telling him he wasn’t allowed to take photos because…well, “you’re not allowed.” When Isayama protested, another worker said he would have to confiscate his camera and erase the images.
But it wasn’t an isolated incident! Another photographer encountered a similiar situation last week when he took this photo in the subway and an MTA worker threatened to confiscate his camera.
Wait – I’m confused. Don’t MTA guidelines clearly state that photos are allowed in the subway?
Last Saturday on Halloween I was detained at the Hollywood/Western Metro stop by LA County sheriffs for taking photos of the newly installed turnstiles that were still under construction and decorated with pretty yellow caution tape. During my detainment (which will be address publicly soon), I was told by one of the sheriffs that taking photos was against MTA’s policy. Well, of course I knew this was not true and stated that to the officer, which didn’t curb his aggressiveness towards me or prevent him from threatening to put my name on the FBI’s “hit list.” But that’s not the point; the officer’s behavior doesn’t matter (for now at least) because the focus of this post is the MTA’s contradictory photography guidelines.
After my exciting detainment, I went home and read over the MTA’s photography guidelines, and sure enough, just like I mentioned during my not-so friendly encounter with the sheriff, photography is allowed on the Los Angeles County MTA system. That is — only in public space.
However, as I read through their guidelines I became rather perplexed because the MTA guidelines also state “no photography inside moving trains for privacy and safety reasons.”
What the hell does that mean…“no photography inside moving trains for privacy reasons”?
Whose privacy are they trying to protect? How is there any more privacy on a public train system while it’s moving than when it’s not moving? How can an expectation of privacy even exist inside a public transit car? Does this also mean, according to MTA policies, that a Metro rider can only have an expectation of privacy while riding in one of their moving cars but not anywhere else on Metro property, which is pretty much all public space? Does an expectation of privacy even exist anywhere on Metro property? It’s all public space!
In my personal and non-legal opinion, I would have to say that this specific policy is bogus and designed to protect MTA personnel from any sort of liability. There can’t be an expectation of privacy anywhere on the MTA because the entire system is public. And we should all be able to take photos anywhere on the system, including inside moving train cars. How else will we be able to catch MTA drivers texting on the job?