VT Photographer Banned From Mall

Photo by Dan Scott/sevencardan

Vermont, always a state on the cutting edge, just came up with a new way to to restrict the legal right of photographers to shoot in public.

Due to complaints from business owners, photographer Dan Scott was issued a one-year trespass order barring him from shooting 67 businesses in the popular Burlington open air mall Church Street Marketplace. If he disobeys that order he can be arrested.

Seven Days reports that Scott has been shooting locals in the mall for over a year and “all his photos are taken on public property, not inside stores or through the windows or blinds of private homes.” In January, Scott was approached at another mall, the Burlington Town Center, by a security guard who told him he wasn’t allowed to take photos there. He was questioned by Burlington police, and then the next day a cop came to his office to question him for 45 minutes. (Crime is pretty low in Burlington.) The photographer seemed mostly interested in finding out whether Scott takes photos of children and posts them on the internet.

The next month, Brown was taking photos outside Uncommon Grounds coffeehouse on Church Street when an employee asked him not to take her photo and to delete any already on his camera, which he didn’t do. A few days later he got a visit at work from another Burlington cop, this one bearing that trespass order. (That sounds like “uncommon grounds” for a trespass order!)

The manager of the coffeehouse, Mara Bethel, paints a different picture of Scott, claiming he’s been a problem, surreptitiously targeting women and creeping them out. She called his behavior “unsettling” and “aggressive” when confronted. 

The Burlington PD never arrested Scott and actually don’t even have control over the trespass order – they’re issued at the request of property owners. So that means, any business that doesn’t like you hanging around can actually legally order you not to? Even if you’re doing something perfectly legal?

As local Saint Michael’s College journalism professor Dave Mindich put it, “Church Street is, by definition, the most public place in Chittenden County, if not Vermont,” he says. “There’s no presumption of privacy. There’s no gray area here.”

Article from Seven Days vis Carlos Miller

16 Responses to “VT Photographer Banned From Mall”

  1. 1 Roger March 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Sure this loser has the legal right to take pictures in public. Just like the mall has the right to ban him from their property.

    If he is annoying their customers, even though what he is doing is legal, why wouldn’t they ban him. If I owned a business and somebody was harassing my customers I certainly would ban that person from coming into my store.

    • 2 Dallascaper March 13, 2010 at 6:52 pm

      The store has the right to ban him from their property. Except that he was on public property outside the store when taking photos, and he can continue to photograph people coming and going as long as he stays on public property. Banning the guy from the store solves nothing.

  2. 3 Christopher Layne March 15, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Dude’s flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38261591@N06/

    If this is what they’re worried about – they’ve obviously not got much going on there. Hardly creepy and looks like typical street photography to my eyes.

  3. 4 Scott Kelly March 16, 2010 at 6:02 am

    There is no 1st amendment violation involved, only one individual behaving poorly, repeatedly refusing to show any respect for other people, becoming EXTREMELY defensive when asked not to take someone’s picture, etc. Now lots of people are upset because he’s experienced the consequences of pissing people off. Boo hoo. Others who were sick of dealing with him took action they are legally entitled to take, but suddenly it’s all about HIS rights. I say keep taking pictures, dude. Nobody’s stopping you. But he shouldn’t try going into the businesses that don’t want him, and if he pisses more people off there will be more consequences. That’s the way the adult world works. The constitution doesn’t give anyone the right not to experience other people’s justifiable anger.

  4. 5 babydiscarted March 16, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Scott – How are you so certain this is “one individual behaving poorly”? It’s interesting you immediately took the mall’s side when it’s a he said-she said scenario. As sure as Dan Scott can be in the wrong so can those coffeeshop employees.

    And it’s not all about HIS rights. The mall won in the end, so I think it’s about their rights in this situation.

  5. 6 Scott Kelly March 16, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Because I live here. I know many of the people who have spoken to him (and there have been many), and I’ve seen them upset about their experiences with him. (btw, some of them are being attacked personally as a result of this, and they don’t deserve that). So for me it’s a little more than a he said-she said scenario. Nor am I taking the Marketplace’s side on this, because the Marketplace (a city entity) has nothing to do with this. I’m siding with those who have felt repeatedly harassed by the photog in question. The trespass order came from a private business, and on the Marketplace businesses have long had a reciprocal agreement to honor one another’s trespass orders. But he hasn’t been banned from the Marketplace or any other public property. I’m angered by the backlash directed at people I like, and I’m upset because those who are trying to make a civil liberties issue out of this are doing a real disservice to all the many very real civil liberties problems out there.

    • 7 babydiscarted March 16, 2010 at 9:20 am

      Just a thought then – maybe when you comment you should include all that info upfront if you have such insider knowledge. Your original comment as it stands alludes to nothing you’ve just written. If your intention is to set the record straight, or defend your friends, or whatever – that’s the way to do it.

      • 8 Scott Kelly March 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

        Fair enough. That’s a reasonable criticism and a good suggestion. I’ve had a little trouble keeping my cool given the rhetoric and hyperbole that’s been spewing forth from a lot of blogs and websites (though I don’t think from this one). The facts of this case as I stated them remain unchanged, and in many cases there’s been an almost total unwillingness to actually try to discover those facts before launching ugly, indefensible, and frequently ignorant attacks, including (especially?) on the site belonging to your source for the article.

  6. 9 discarted March 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Sorry Scott, but taking pictures of people in public is completely legal and does not constitute harassment of any sort. Nor do street photographers have to justify what they’re doing to anyone when approached by another member of the public. And if that person doesn’t like the photographer’s response to their inquiry, then they can escalate the situation, or simply walk away.

    More important, the people who visit Unconstitutional Grounds and the Marketplace must learn the law and photographers’ rights. If they knew what they were getting into before they all dove off the deep end head first, then maybe they would have thought about the possible consequences before they took action. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. You say, “Now lots of people are upset because he’s experienced the consequences of pissing people off. Boo hoo.”

    Well I say Uncommon Grounds aka Unconstitutional Grounds has experienced the consequences of pissing people off…boo hoo as well.

    And just because you live there and have apparently spoken with some people (would really like to know the actual number though) that Dan allegedly photographed doesn’t necessarily mean that their side of the story is 100% accurate or true. People do tend to slant things in favor of their viewpoint. And they do tend to fall victim to the pack mentality during situations like this.

    But again, public photography is absolutely legal and there really isn’t anything people can do about it. If you don’t want your picture taken by a member of the public, security cameras, corporations, or law enforcement then you should just stay in doors. There are many laws that I disagree with, but since they are law I must follow them rather than taking the law into my own hands.

    I am wondering what you meant by this though. Is this a threat toward Dan? Because that’s how I perceive it.

    “…and if he pisses more people off there will be more consequences. That’s the way the adult world works. The constitution doesn’t give anyone the right not to experience other people’s justifiable anger.”

    And the reason why I see your remark that way is because public photography is legal and their really isn’t legal action you can take against a person for taking pictures of people when they’re in public. So based on that, it seems like the consequences will be physical because what else can be done—that is, legally?

    And don’t get on your soap box and act all high and mighty by saying…

    “That’s the way the adult world works.”

    It’s as though you’re saying your opinion is the correct one, the only one, and has a very solid foundation, which is not the case, while supporters of Dan are just wrong.

    But I guess to help prove your point, it looks like Uncommon Grounds has gotten a little taste of how “the adult world works” when they make very poor decisions.

    Would also like to know what facts that you stated have remained unchanged?

    “The facts of this case as I stated them remain unchanged, and in many cases there’s been an almost total unwillingness to actually try to discover those facts before launching ugly, indefensible, and frequently ignorant attacks, including (especially?) on the site belonging to your source for the article.”

    How are they solid facts? Have you ever spoken with Dan Scott or tried to “discover” his side of the story—from him and not somebody else, or through hearsay??? If not, then your facts are simply one sided and probably slanted to fit the pack’s position, which it appears you have fallen in line with as well.

  7. 10 Scott Kelly March 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Unconstitutional Grounds? Seriously? Spare me, silly person. And study up on your Con Law. I’m done now, but remember…..I love you anyway

  8. 11 discarted March 16, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Oh yes, the standard response from someone who lacks merit or any kind of legitimate argument to support his claims.

    So instead of responding with reason, he digresses to name calling, personal attacks, mediocre humor, and simply runs away because he can’t think of any thing else to say.

    Is this how people behave in “the adult world,” Scott?

    Scott, if you’re such the expert in Constitutional law, why don’t you TRY to give us a lesson.

    And please don’t pull your answers from Wikipedia in order to school us.

    When you’re ready to have a legitimate conversation/debate, like real adults that live in “the adult world,” then feel free to post again.

    Just curious, are you in any way personally involved with Mara Bethel, or anyone else associated with Unconstitutional Grounds?

  9. 12 Jim March 17, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    The really interesting bit in all of this is that the photographer can still continue doing exactly what he had been doing all along. He is prohibited from going INTO the establishments. Standing on the public street, as he apparently was, won’t violate anything.

  10. 13 Silver Fang August 5, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Since when does a store have the right to have a photographer banned from the PUBLIC street in front of it? As long as Dan Scott wasn’t taking pictures inside the store, he wasn’t breaking any laws.

    I hope he sues the city and the store for violating his rights.

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  13. 16 Woman August 18, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    This guy is creepy, rude, arrogant, and became very defensive when asked that my photo be deleted.It takes 2 seconds to ask permission to take someones photo, why not ask?? Instead he squatted down on the side walk and took my picture while i was sitting in my car at a red light. When I noticed him and yelled “hey, why are you taking my picture”, he couldn’t walk away fast enough. Yes, I turned my car around and parked, and asked him to delete it. I was told “NO”. In the article in Seven Days Dan states he will delete a photo if asked, LIAR!! He is creepy and something is not right with him. If he ever takes photos of my daughter I will chance getting into trouble to destroy his precious camera.

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