Posts Tagged 'union station'

Another Hearing on Photographer Harassment

Erin McCann, a DC photographer and activist for photographers’ rights, sent an email today with news that there will be a Congressional hearing on photographer harassment this Wednesday, September 23 at 2 pm EST.

We posted on last year’s Congressional hearing on photography rules in Union Station, which ultimately clarified the fact that it’s quite legal to shoot there despite multiple incidents where  their security insisted otherwise. Now, it seems Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) wants to get to the bottom of the similarly outrageous  harassment at the Department of Transportation (we’ve posted on it here and here) in a hearing entitled “Risk-based Security in Federal Buildings: Targeting Funds to Real Risks and Eliminating Unnecessary Security Obstacles.”

Erin will be testifying about the recent DOT incidents. From Erin’s email:

There is no law forbidding the taking of photographs of public buildings–federal or not–and yet our current security climate operates under the assumption that photographers are always suspicious. Photographers have been harassed on a regular basis in recent years, and several have been arrested. Del. Norton’s support for our rights is significant and very much appreciated.
Erin will be Tweeting from the hearing and you can follow her Twitter feed here on Wednesday.

Amtrak Forces LA Photographer to Delete Images

Despite several embarrassing incidents for Amtrak in the news recently (in NY and DC), Amtrak employees are still woefully uninformed when it comes to photographers’ rights. 

A local LA photographer, who goes by ShutterBuda, was taking photos at Union Station downtown yesterday morning for about an hour when he snapped an Amtrak employee who told him to not take photos. ShutterBuda continued shooting, when another Amtrak employee told him that he didn’t have permission to take photos. At this point, a commuter chimed in that he also objected to his picture being taken.

This guy, who claimed to be an ex-Guardian Angel, quickly became belligerent and escalated the situation into an ugly scene, yelling that ShutterBuda didn’t have permission to take his photo and threatening to “take him down” and “smash his camera.”  All three were now demanding that he delete his photos. In quick succession, the Amtrak employees called a manager over and the manager called a security guard.

amtrak-2 Photo by ShutterBuda

Not knowing how the law applied inside Union Station, ShutterBuda complied with the demands to delete the images. “Out on the street I never would have deleted those photos – I would have said no,” he says, “but I was kind of in a grey area there.” Plus, he says, they were being abusive and he didn’t want to deal with the scene.

Soon enough three LA County Sheriffs were on the scene.

If you can imagine it: Four Amtrak employees and three sheriffs for a man taking photos of commuters inside a public building.

The sheriffs backed up the Amtrak employees, with one claiming, ShutterBuda says, “that I needed permission from whoever owns Union Station and that I should comply with [the Amtrak staff] because they’re ambassadors for the law in some sense.” One sheriff asked to see the camera to check that the images were deleted – all of which ShutterBuda was able to get back later using recovery software.

amtrak-1 Photo by ShutterBuda

The issue, it seems, was not ShutterBuda being there (i.e., trespassing or security risks) but that he didn’t have permission to be there. Which is a blatant fabrication. You do not need permission to shoot handheld in a public place. And you certainly do not subject yourself to the seizure of your images if you do so. That is downright illegal and possibly a Fourth Amendment issue. A court order is required for anyone to view your photos.

There’s also the issue of whether Amtrak and the sheriffs violated copyright and intellectual property laws by deleting these images, which of course is well beyond their pay grade. They are just blindly following some order they think they have the right to enforce.

Continue reading ‘Amtrak Forces LA Photographer to Delete Images’

Congress Weighs in on Photographers’ Rights

Photo courtesy of Sanjay Suchak

It was six months in the making, but photographers now finally know that it’s perfectly legal to shoot in DC’s Union Station.

The Congressional Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management held a hearing today on Union Station, in part to address the issue of its improper and inconsistent enforcement of photography rules. 

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who chaired the hearing, called the situation “pathetic,” noting an incident last spring where a Union Station security officer tried to shut down an interview that the local Fox station was conducting with an Amtrak spokesperson.

Representatives from Amtrak and the company that manages Union Station, Jones Lang LaSalle, testified that it’s legal to take photos in the station and the high turnover of security staff was to blame for the inconsistencies.

Erin McCann, local photographer and member of DC Photo Rights, testified that she’s just looking for some answers. She’s been getting the runaround from management and security guards for six months, getting conflicting information from just about everyone. She said:

I’ve never been clear on why, exactly, a camera is considered threatening. In the aftermath of the 2005 transit bombings in London, for instance, officials appealed to the public for snapshots taken before and after the attacks in their search for clues. An open photography policy can be a security team’s best friend. It also liberates security employees from the task of investigating people like me as I take photographs in the most obvious way possible. With a 10-inch lens on my camera, there is no disguising what I am doing.

Rep. Norton asked for an outline of the station’s new photography policy that is mindful of first amendment rights and a plan to re-train security staff, within 30 and 60 days, respectively.

Read and watch Fox 5’s report here.

Read Erin McCann’s testimony here.

See Erin McCann’s photos of the hearing here.

“No pictures. You could be a terrorist.”


Keith Garsee was one of the photographers who joined us at the Photographers’ Rights Day rally in Hollywood on Sunday and also one of the inspirations for the event in the first place. He was harassed in the Los Angeles Metro, and we do mean harassed. It’s one thing to be told you can’t take photos, another to be threatened with arrest, and then quite another altogether to be told “F–k you” when you ask a simple question! Perhaps our tax dollars need to be going toward charm school for these security folks?

Here’s just an excerpt.

Him: Hey! It’s against the 9-11 Law to take pictures down here man!
Me: You mean the Patriot Act?
Him: No pictures.
Me: Could you explain? What law do you mean?
Him: You are lawyer?
Me: No.
Him: No pictures. You could be a terrorist. Very strict!
Me: How about I take a picture of you?
Him: F**k you… (I couldn’t believe it either)

Read the full account here.

Via Boing Boing.

Photo by discarted.

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) Supports Photographers’ Rights

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton(D-DC) sets the record straight, stating that Washington DC’s Union Station is public space and has always been public space and that all Constitutional rights apply within Union Station.


Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) Supports Photographers’ Rights

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton(D-DC) sets the record straight, stating that Washington DC’s Union Station is public space and has always been public space and that all Constitutional rights apply within Union Station.


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