Archive for the 'Security Guard Harassment' Category

Security Guard vs. Photographer

This is an old video from 2009 that was taken down by YouTube because the guard complained that his privacy was violated.   But it’s finally back on line, two years later, where it belongs since we all know that an expectation of privacy does not exist on a public sidewalk.

If any photographers are still being harassed by downtown Los Angeles security guards please document the encounter with video and let us know.

From YouTube:

A downtown Los Angeles security guard tells a photographer that he can’t photograph The Gas Company Tower from a public sidewalk without the property owner’s permission. The photographer informs the guard that that is not true.

MD Mall Security Assaults Man For iPhone Video

Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover, Md., has a lot to offer —  a couple of chain and outlet stores, some high-calorie food options, and security guards who will assault you if you record them with your phone.

That’s what happened to Thomas Tang on April 8 when he and his girlfriend entered the mall by trying two different entrances that aren’t permitted after a certain hour, even though they were still open. Tang and his girlfriend, Erin Fabian, argued with security for not allowing them into the mall to get to the movie theater, which was still open. More security was called, and the pair were banned from the mall for their behavior in challenging the policy.

On his way out of the mall, Tang pulled out his iPhone to record the guards’ behavior and told them he would put it on YouTube. That really set them off, and they chased him into the parking lot. Four guards wrestled him to the ground and took his iPhone and deleted the video. He and Fabian were arrested by local police — he for trespassing, she for assault since the police claim she hit a guard in the chin.

Arundel Mills, which is owned by Simon Property Group in Indianapolis, is of course private property and they have the right to request people leave the premises and ban them too, if they so desire. However, security staff have no authority to assault you or seize your property, regardless of your behavior. They actually have the exact same amount of authority as you or me.

The authorities have told Tang there is nothing he can do; they say he was on private property so he has no recourse. Not true exactly.

This is what we recommended to him (and anyone who is being railroaded by individuals or companies abusing their authority): He should press charges against them for theft, unlawful detainment, assault and battery, false imprisonment and destruction of property; get recovery software to retrieve the iPhone video and put it on YouTube; get the mall’s security footage; file a complaint with the state agency that is the watchdog for security guard companies; contact the Better Business Bureau; contact local politicians, like city council members and the DA’s office; send the story to local news media so people are aware that this mall employs people who break the law. (This local site has already picked it up.)

DC Police Seize Camera, Delete Photos

According to the video’s description, police seized the camera and deleted its contents, but the video was retrieved using file recovery software.

Here is a longer version of the video (which was also deleted by police) showing a heavily armed police force harassing a group of peaceful animal rights protesters.

Two Misdemeanor Charges for Student Photog

Photo by Shawn Nee / discarted (Used to show that photographs of patients and ambulances are not illegal)

Justin Kenward, photo editor of the Chaffey College student newspaper, The Breeze, is facing criminal charges (that will likely be dropped by a level-headed judge on October 18), after photographing a car accident victim near the school’s newsroom.

According to the Student Press Law Center, Kenward began photographing the victim as he was being loaded into the ambulance on a stretcher by emergency personel. Kenward claims that the victim did not have an issue with being photographed, and that the man (who was talking on his cell phone at the time) even smiled and waved at him. But fire personnel attending to the patient are saying the opposite, claiming that the man objected to being photographed and that Kenward was interfering with them.

“Firefighter medics reported that while they were attending to a person experiencing chest pain, a photographer began taking photographs of the patient despite the patient’s objections, and allegedly interfered with the care of the patient,” according to a press release from Chaffey College.

According to SPLC’s report, a paramedic then told Kenward he was not allowed to photograph the patient due to doctor-patient confidentially. So Kenward obliged and moved back.

Minutes later, campus cadets arrived on scene, and like fire personnel, told the photo editor that he could not photograph the incident. However, Kenward identified himself as press, which caused the cadets to walk away.

“I took that as a green light and continued shooting,” Kenward said.

However, at that point, another firefighter again told Kenward he could not take pictures.

He was about twenty feet away when a firefighter said no pictures were allowed. Kenward argued with the man, took down his name and went inside.

Putting morals aside (which is simply one man’s opinion versus another man’s opinion), photographing a victim inside of an ambulance, which still has its doors open, is not against the law, nor does it violate doctor-patient confidentially. And how can someone even argue that this does violate doctor-patient confidentiality when a doctor isn’t even present? Is it maybe because this paramedic was inventing a non-existent law based on their own morals, rather than following actual law? Possibly.

But if the paramedics’ claims are true, and the victim did object to being photographed, it doesn’t matter because the accident occurred in public where an expectation of privacy does not exist. Which means, anybody (including accident victims) can be photographed despite their objections. So it appears these paramedics, firefighters, and campus cadets need training regarding photographers’ rights and the First Amendment.

Seriously though, when are firefighters and police officers going to realize that they are not victim watchdogs in charge of censoring anybody trying to document an incident scene that involves injured people? That is not their job. Nor is it their job to threaten college reporters with expulsion if they do not kowtow to their unlawful demands, such as what one officer tried to get Kenward to do.

Shortly after, an emergency team member came in with a police officer. Kenward, the newspaper adviser and a Breeze reporter spent about an hour discussing the matter with the police. The officer wanted the images but the group refused. Kenward said the officer threatened to expel him from campus for two weeks if he did not hand over a copy of images.

Thankfully, the officer’s threats had no effect on Kenward who held strong to his position and did not hand over the photos.

“I knew he wasn’t able to actually expel me, that’s up to the school board,” Kenward said.

More important, law enforcement does not have the legal authority to demand the images either. Especially in California, which has very strict shield laws that protect journalists from the prying eyes and hands of cops. Greg Leslie, an attorney for Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press explains:

“You cannot seize the work product — including notes and photographs — even if you have a search warrant,” Leslie said. “The proper route would be for them to subpoena the photos.”

Greg continues, bolstering the fact that law enforcement or firefighters can not prevent photographers (or anybody as a matter of fact) from documenting accident or crime scenes, including when victims are inside ambulances:

“You can always take pictures at a crime scene, but you can’t interfere,” Leslie said. “Even taking pictures inside an ambulance is not necessarily illegal.”

But despite all of that, the unknown officer did not relent and eventually returned hours later, charging Kenward with “interfering with a firefighter and disobeying an order from a firefighter.” Which, as we all know, are your standard “contempt of cop” charges that all cops use when somebody hasn’t violated any laws but stood up for their rights and didn’t acquiesce to their imperious tactics and empty threats.

“I wanted to scream,” Kenward said.

So do we.

Article via SPLC

Wackenhut/G4S Guard and Photographer Face Off

When it comes to watching security guards harassing photographers, Tom McElvy’s video of his encounter with a Wackenhut/G4S security guard at the Bank of America Center in Norfolk, VA, is one of the more cordial exchanges that’s been uploaded to the web this year. Maybe I’m partial to blonde haired girls with blue eyes and a nice Virginia accent, but most photographers would likely prefer an encounter with this Wackenhut/G4S guard than with the US Bank Tower’s Patrick Silver or the Port of Long Beach guard who didn’t care about the law.

No, there’s not much excitement occurring in McElvy’s video (both people handle themselves well), but based on the text and what is said in the video, there is evidence pointing to a history of harassment and an illegal policy that is creating a hostile environment for photographers who shoot around this Bank of America location. More important, the people in charge of this place, such as Chris Taylor and this girl’s “superior,” who is informing this girl to tell people they can’t photograph the property, may not know what the First Amendment entails.

But maybe they do and simply don’t care about constitutional rights and will continue harassing photographers as long as they can get away with it.

So maybe a flash mob at the Bank of America Center is needed to help educate whoever is running this operation?

Bank of America Center
1 Commercial Place
Norfolk, VA 23510

Armed But Not Dangerous

Photo by Justin.Beck

Wouldn’t it be a shame if pictures like this weren’t possible because of ignorant security guards? The photographer of this shot at the Transamerica Building in San Francisco was harassed by a guard who was “concerned” by his presence — on the public sidewalk — and made a point of bringing a camera out to take photos of him. (The subject of the photo is another member of the security staff.)

In a recent post, the New America Foundation’s Media Policy Initiative blog cautions about the dangers of letting fear and security concerns, however real or imagined, overshadow First Amendment protections.

But in the modern information society, the camera is not a weapon; on the contrary, it’s increasingly the main tool of citizen journalists in their effort to spread information. The easiest way that an average person can contribute to the news ecosystem—one of the prime opportunities for civic engagement—might be to take just one picture.

Photographers, Police Clash in DC

Photo by Joe in DC

A few weeks back Washington Post writer Annys Shin put the call out for photographers who’d been harassed while photographing federal buildings and landmarks in the DC area. This article is the result. Shin finds out what many of us have known for a while, and that’s while DC may be the country’s seat of power, its law enforcement and security personnel are often woefully lacking in knowledge about laws regarding photography.

This quote from the DC police union president is kind of troubling — and illustrates that, no matter how many articles are written, they still just don’t get it.

“When people see a camera, they get more into it,” said Marcello Muzzatti, president of D.C. Lodge No. 1 of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 11,000 officers in more than 100 D.C. and federal agencies. “Some people will figure, ‘I have a right to take pictures,’ and we are not arguing with that. An officer also has a right to his or her safety and to control the situation.”

Be sure to also look at this interesting compilation of the photos that got DC area photographers in trouble with the law.

Article from Washington Post

News Crew Kicked Off State-Funded Property

Sacramento’s CBS 13 news crew went to a vacant EdFund building as part of a story on government waste and were met with some puzzling resistence. First, a security guard put his hand over the camera’s lens and asked them to stop filming. Then, Heather Wallace, EdFund’s lawyer — someone ostensibly very familiar with the law! — came out to tell them to stop filming.

You are not authorized to film right now,” said the lawyer.

“We’re in a public place right now,” the reporter responded.

“This is not.” Wallace stated. “This is not a state property.”

But the rent on this property at Mather is in fact entirely funded by the State of California. Yet that didn’t stop EdFund from escorting the CBS 13 crew off the premises.

Later, an EdFund communications staffer told CBS 13 that the reaction was due to the confidential nature of what goes on there…in a vacant building…that, if it were operational, would be to “provide counseling and financial information for students – and ultimately guarantee the loans will be paid back.” It doesn’t seem top secret, but OK.

Taxpayers have been paying $1.3 million a year in rent for the vacant building for two years. California is in the midst of a fiscal crisis of extreme proportions, with a budget deficit of $19 billion. Could that be why they’re so averse to a news crew filming there?

Story from CBS 13

Video of Police/BP Harassing Photographer

Last week we  posted on freelance photographer Lance Rosenfield’s run-in with law enforcement/BP Gestapo while on assignment for ProPublica and PBS Frontline.

The Galveston County Daily News has now published dashboard cam video of the encounter where you can see the officer phoning in Rosenfield’s details to the local FBI, or “frickin’ Homeland Security guy,” noting that he was in the public right of way and basically doing nothing wrong. When Rosenfield objects to his personal information being given to BP’s private security force, he’s told that they are “a certain type of law enforcement.”

Officer Kreitemeyer admits he’s just “going through the motions.” Meanwhile, the first amendment dies a slow death.

As ProPublia’s Stephen Engelberg reports in this piece, The Galveston County Daily News’ has tried unsucessfully to press the police to name the law that allows them to review photos. Associate Editor Mike Smith: 

“Nobody can point to a law of the United States of America or the State of Texas that allows police to do this. This is an assumed power that the police have taken on themselves based on this amorphous notion that the demands of the security state allow this and if you’re a good citizen, you shouldn’t make a fuss.”

See more videos at ProPublica

DHS, Police & BP Detain Photographer at Refinery

Refineries are typically dicey places for photography — even from public vantage points — because oil companies evidently are above the law and the government typically backs them up on that. Add BP and the biggest oil spill in US history to the mix, and well, you can imagine what ensues.

On Friday, Lance Rosenfield, a photographer working on a piece jointly produced by PBS Frontline and ProPublica, was harassed and detained by a Homeland Security officer, two police officers and a security guard at a BP refinery in Texas City, TX. After Rosenfield took a photo of a Texas City road sign, he was followed and surrounded at a gas station where the trio told him they had a right to look at his photos — even if they were shot on public property — and if he didn’t comply he would be taken in. After giving them his vital stats (which are no doubt now filed away on some terrorist watchlist), Rosenfield was released and no charges were filed.

From ProPublica‘s editor in chief: 

We certainly appreciate the need to secure the nation’s refineries. But we’re deeply troubled by BP’s conduct here, especially when they knew we were working on deadline on critical stories about this very facility. And we see no reason why, if law enforcement needed to review the unpublished photographs, that should have included sharing them with a representative of a private company. 

BP maintains it followed “industry practice that is required by federal law.” I would like to see this federal law challenged in court because I have a feeling taking photos of  a public street is a constitutionally protected activity.
See all of Rosenfield’s Texas City photos here.
Article from ProPublica and The Intel Hub

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