Posts Tagged 'ACLU'

National Photographer’s Rights Day is Today

NPRD PhotographersNational Photographers’ Rights Day – June 1, 2008

Today is National Photographer’s Rights Day, so we hope you’re out exercising your First Amendment rights to take pictures in public like we were doing this afternoon.

As you all know, it’s completely legal to take photos in public space.  Some people are catching on; some people aren’t. These things do take time, but  we do believe we have had far more successes than setbacks since the creation of the National Photographers’ Rights Organization in 2008.

In the past we’ve held a gathering on this day to bring photographers of all kinds together to take pictures, share stories, educate anybody who is willing to listen, and to demonstrate that there’s nothing wrong with taking photos in public.

However, we’ve been busy over the past year or so with general life stuff, not to mention an ACLU lawsuit against the LA County Sheriff’s Department.  So we have not been as active as we’d liked to have been. We’re still around though, and we do have some future photography events and trips in the works; there’s also plans to have a seminar and a photography walk with ACLU staff.  So stay tuned.

And in case you forgot, here are your rights.

ACLU Sues LA County Sheriff’s Department on Behalf of Photographers

From LATimes.com:

ACLU of Southern California sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and several of its deputies Thursday alleging they harassed, detained and improperly searched photographers taking pictures legally in public places.

ACLU May Sue MTA For Baltimore Incident

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.

ACLU Bad, Newark Police Good

In a recent article on the Newark Star-Ledger site, George Berkin, a contributor to something called “NJ Voices,” writes on the case of Newark teen Khaliah Fitchette who was unlawfully detained in March 2010 for taping a medical emergency on a city bus with her cell phone. During the incident, Fitchette was handcuffed, her cell phone was seized and the video was deleted, and the police tried to charge her with obstruction of justice. Last week, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court on her behalf.

Berkin is a big fan of the bible and Sarah Palin but not of abortion and evolution. So if you want to take a wild guess on where he’ll come down on the issue, go ahead. If you’re stumped, for Berkin, it all comes down to being thoughtful.

A thoughtful person would have realized, “Now I understand why the police, angered by my defiance expressed by my refusal to stop taping, would have handcuffed me. I certainly did not enjoy being handcuffed and being held in custody for several hours. But,” a thoughtful person would have concluded, “I certainly brought that unpleasantness upon myself.”

Fitchette wasn’t being thoughtful when her rights were violated, and she should just learn some thoughtfulness and not attempt to tape anything in public because it might hurt someone’s feelings, and if she is unlawfully detained and her constitutional rights are violated because of her thoughtless behavior, she should accept that and not participate in the ACLU’s vendetta against the Newark police department. (A police department, mind you, that has a well-earned reputation as one of the most corrupt in the nation.)

Here’s an interesting twist for Berkin, who hates government spending: Lawsuits like these cost taxpayers A LOT of money. And they are entirely avoidable.

Source: Newark Star-Ledger

DC’s Most Detained Photographer Gets Detained Again

Last October, as a result of a pretty major lawsuit brought by the New York chapter of the ACLU, the federal government agreed to end the harassment of photographers outside all federal buildings. Sadly, not all federal employees have been apprised of the decision.

Here is photographer Jerome Vorus’s story of his encounter outside DC’s Superior Court, from our NPRO flickr group. (You might remember Vorus has been detained at Reagan National Airport and on the streets of DC in the recent past for his photography activities.)

On February 10, 2011, I was taking photographs around Capitol Hill and started to take photos of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (the corner of 6th and C Street NW), at which time I was stopped by a Court Security Officer (CSO) who told me that my actions of taking photographs were unlawful, and that I would need to stop taking pictures of the building even from the public sidewalk. The CSO (Gasser) then called for US Marshals for assistance and I was immediately stopped by deputy Torrance Wilson (4101) and Shanks (4475). I was told that I was being stopped for photography.

Both deputy Marshals began to enlist personal information from me, asking for my identification at which time I asked “am I being detained or am I free to go”. Both officers told me that I was not being detained, that I was “being stopped for questioning” I continued to ask “am I being detained or am I free to go” I was then told that I was being detained because I recording them. Deputy Wilson then called a supervisor for assistance because it was obvious that they were not knowledgeable of the law as it regards to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Continue reading ‘DC’s Most Detained Photographer Gets Detained Again’

IL Takes Several Steps Back, Won’t Protect Recording Police

People in Illinois are looking at fifteen years if they audio-record police activity. Or should I say “still looking”? Because the Illinois Eavesdropping Act makes recording someone in public without their consent a felony. Last year the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the law, but a few weeks ago Federal Judge Suzanne Conlon dismissed it, saying there is no First Amendment protections there.  

Although law-enforcement officials can legally record civilians in private or public, audio-recording a law-enforcement officer, state’s attorney, assistant state’s attorney, attorney general, assistant attorney general or judge in the performance of his or her duties is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

As Reason magazine’s Radley Balko writes, unfortunately, “the law is used almost exclusively against people who attempt to record on-duty police officers.”

While absurd, this makes some sort of sense because allowing citizens to record police activity would likely cause all kinds of grief for that very jackbooted state that is known to be very corrupt.

Source: New York Times

ACLU Takes on DC Police in Photog Harassment Case


Photograph by Jerome Vorus

This past summer, photographer Jerome Vorus was harassed and detained by DC police when he tried to take photos of a traffic stop in Georgetown. The incident touched off a mini firestorm, with mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post and NBC crying foul. (It always helps when these things happen in a major media hub.) People were rightfully alarmed at the cops’ arrogance (telling him it was illegal to take photos of the police) and their violation of Vorus’ rights.

In a letter to DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier, a lawyer from ACLU’s DC chapter demands the police acknowledge the incident in the form of a settlement and an apology – or  a lawsuit will follow. If this doesn’t make police departments sit up and take notice, it should.

Times are changing, and it’s not fun and games and unlimited power anymore. The ACLU is very proactive on the photographers’ rights issue, and with photographer Antonio Musumeci’s recent settlement with the federal government, they have a pretty good track record of winning. Sometimes the only way you can change institutional behavior, or implement “corrective training” as the ACLU calls it, is with a costly lawsuit. Too bad it’s the taxpayers who will pay for these public servants’ ignorance.



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