Posts Tagged 'photographing refineries'

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

Advertisements

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

NPRO Rally: Free State vs. Police State

Here’s the second installment of a series of our NPRO Rally videos that will be posted throughout the week, culminating on Friday with a recap of the whole weekend rally. 

As you see, this encounter at the Port of Long Beach was drama-free. The Harbor Patrol were friendly and civil and took the appropriate tone, as opposed to many law enforcement officers who see a camera and immediately get suspicious, aggressive and condescending. The main officer seen here is probably an amiable guy in general, but I think he was also playing the game differently, being funny and congenial and conciliatory in order to get the same information they all want – names, addresses, social security numbers. I called him on this and he played it off like I was crazy to even suggest a thing – who me?! He must have thought he was being pretty clever asking where we were parked (“Do you guys have a car or something?”), assuming he would ID us through our license plates. He knew that when you’re not breaking any laws you can refuse to identify yourself – as we did.

So, it was fine enough, but a few things still bothered me. 1) The call the refinery security guard put out after speaking with us was that it was a physical altercation, and that’s just a complete fabrication. How did this conversation get blown into a physical altercation, necessitating the need for four patrol cars? And 2) The female officer at the end of the video said we should have informed them of our plans to shoot at the port, framing it as a “common courtesy.” 

Yes, sure. We could also notify the police when we’re going grocery shopping and jogging in the park. That’s what you do in a police state.

Port Security: “I Don’t Care About the Law”

The NPRO weekend rally started off Saturday evening in the Port of Long Beach – not only an amazing landscape for photos, but a place known to regularly trample on photographers’ civil rights. So we were shooting for about five minutes when a security guard drove up and immediately yelled out, “You can’t take pictures of the refinery!” When pressed why not, she was clearly stumped. There was some back and forth. Eventually she said, “I don’t care about the law…I care about me doing my job working for that refinery.”

After an exasperated “Fine, whatever,” she left and apparently called Harbor Patrol. Four units arrived on the scene, saying they’d been told there was a physical altercation. You can watch the video; how is that defined as a physical altercation? (More on the Harbor Patrol encounter to be posted later.)

Now, truth be told, this security guard tried very hard to ultimately keep it civil – and she’s just doing her job, granted – but this video is a perfect example of how woefully untrained security personnel are. Instead of having any laws, or even company policy, to bolster her argument, she’s just regurgitating a very vague rule handed down by higher-ups.

Doesn’t the refinery owe it to their employees to give them more training? What if there were actual terrorists out there? You can’t tell me they’re legitimately worried about terrorism if this is how they’re protecting themselves.



%d bloggers like this: