TRAINS, CAMERAS AND THE CONSTITUTION

It was Labor Day in 2009 when I became aware of just how bad things have gotten in the US.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’ve been naïve.  I’ve been a student of free speech and the political landscape of the US since high school, but Labor Day was the first time I have come into contact with a violation of my civil rights in a very real way.

Our office had a loaner 5D Mark II, and I took it for the weekend for a test drive.  I’ve had a fascination with the Houston light rail since they started laying track, and shooting it with the 5D seemed like the thing to do.  So my friend and I were standing on the platform when an angry homeless guy came up to us and starts harassing us for change.  I look to my right, and there was a Metro Police Car.  I waved at him hoping he would keep this guy moving who was now becoming belligerent.  I’m usually not so nervous in these situations, however, I did have $3500.00 worth of camera  strapped around my neck.  The cop yelled out something:  ”NO PICTURES OF THE TRAIN!”

Could he actually be serious?  After several calls to the Houston Metro Police Department, I come to find he was.  However, it seems there is no law on the books prohibiting photography of a train.  Nevertheless, Homeland Security has endowed local police departments nationwide with violating the first amendment rights of would be train photographers by harassing them and/or detaining them.

When I hung up the phone, I knew for the first time, I wasn’t dealing with some rogue cop or an over zealous police captain, I was dealing with the New American Police State.  The kind of police state they warned us about in speeches on Veteran’s Day when I was in elementary school.

It turns out, my experience isn’t unique in any fashion, except I might have gotten off easy.  Last February in New York,  Robert S. Taylor of Brooklyn was taking photos for fun in a subway station. Police saw him and cited him for unauthorized photography, even though the crime doesn’t actually exist.  Taylor states that charge was dropped, however, they also charged him disorderly conduct.  Ironically, Taylor works for MTA.  He was off duty at the time. More recently, on the other side of the country in California, Andrew Cichowski was taking pictures of the Diridon train station in San José.

I was taking a picture of the barbed wire fence, I heard someone shout “TURN AROUND SLOWLY!” I said “excuse me?” confusedly, and then slowly turned around. To my surprise, two police officers were staring at me. They asked what I was “suspiciously photographing industrial stuff for…” After about 30 minutes, they realized I wasn’t some sort of strange train terrorist, but were still asking me questions. A third officer and third and fourth squad car then arrived. Eventually, they copied the entire contents of my CF card to their police laptop and two flash drives, I told them they could have a copy of the photos as long as they didn’t sell any of them. They smiled and promised not to.  Aside from this being a terribly obnoxious waste of time, it was an interesting experience, and I’m now very likely on some sort of terrorist watch list for being a suspicious photographer…

Just today, someone posted the image at the top of this article which is a sign on a train in Chicago.  It asks citizens to call 911 if they see any suspicious behavior, and it explicitly lists photography and video as one of those suspicious activities.  So where does this leave free citizens who wish to maintain their Constitutional rights?  It leaves us with the burden of asserting ourselves I’m afraid.

Sometimes, the only way to keep a right is by exercising that right.  Therefore, take pictures whenever possible of everything possible, especially of trains, planes and buses.  We must report any police officers, security guards or other so-called officials who attempt to infringe upon our rights to their superiors and watch dog groups such as the ACLU.  Become locally active in photography groups in your area and most importantly, talk about these issues.  Post your experiences online using blogs and social media.  Above all, write your mayor, congressman and senators and tell them if they are incapable of stopping these attacks on our civil rights, we will elect someone who will.

The bottom line, there is now a real threat to the rights of free citizens everywhere, and no one is going to rescue you.  If you want to enjoy the freedom to use your camera when and where you want, you’re going to have to fight.  It’s up to you.

Other sites to check out:
http://tinyurl.com/nopicsinca

http://tinyurl.com/nopicsinny

http://carlosmiller.com/

http://www.nycphotorights.com/

http://tinyurl.com/nopicsintx

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THE FINAL WORD ON LEO GOLD AND THE KPFT SCANDAL

I finally finished the video, documenting the issue with KFPT and Leo Gold.  You may remember:

 “In a curt manner Gold hung up with the man and then entered into a tirade that the man was a sneak, and some how called his show to slip in false and dangerous information that could harm his listeners — as if they didn’t have the ability to decide for themselves.  I was totally thrown, because this level of disrespect is outside my experience with KPFT.”

You can check out more in my earlier blog entries below.  Please post comments and tell me what you think of the video.

https://comeandtakeittv.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/letter-to-kpfts-leo-gold-of-the-new-capital-show/

THE LIES, DECIET & DISINFORMATION OF KPFT

The following video is the final response to what began as a question of fairness that developed into an investigation of the integrity of the Pacifica radio…

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END THE FED RALLY – HOUSTON – 11/22/09

On November 22, 2009 Americans around the country will gather to rally against this unconstitutional, private bank.  The Houston Area Liberty Campaign, in conjunction with Young Americans For Liberty – UH Chapter, the Harris County Libertarian Party and Restore the Republic held the End The Fed Rally in Houston from 2 to 4PM, Sunday, 11/22/09.

Jake and I attended the event where there was a variety of speakers from congressional candidates to chiropractors as well as a key note from Ron Paul.   I was particular struck by the diversity of the attendees, that spanned ages, races, political affiliations.  This was an ecletic group of people who were brought togeather by a common purpose, that is to pass legislation authorizing Congress to audit the Federal Reserve.

This event comes on the heals of a Congressional vote  on Thursday 11/19/09 that approved legislation introduced by Congressman Ron Paul to audit the Federal Reserve for the first time in the central bank’s 95-year-history.  The audit will investigate the Federal Reserve monetary policy specifically how much the central bank has lent and will lend to specific banks.  Fed Chief Ben Bernanke and other key members of the Obama administration, including Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, had vigorously opposed the move.

SAY NO TO LEO AND KPFT! THE BOYCOTT RAGES ON!

LEO GOLD-001 JPG

These are just some of the words from Leo Gold from 10/22/09.

This is my membership renewal from the Pacifica Foundation.  On it, it reads:

“When you renew your membership to KPFT you help us to promote peace through everything we do by presenting news, music and VIEWPOINTS that help us to understand more about our world and the people around us, because understanding creates compassion, and compassion creates peace. ”

What has taken place over the past three weeks has not been the rantings of some rogue radio announcer spewing his hatred for all those who don’t see eye to eye with him.  No, every word that Leo Gold said has been backed up by the staff at KPFT and therefore by Pacifica.  They back him up, they support him, and they endorse him.

For these reasons, I will not be taking part in something “special”, and I ask you to stand with me in opposition to this hypocrisy by boycotting KPFT and Pacifica.  The terms of this boycott are simple.

Do not renew your memberships or make any financial restitution for KPFT or Pacifica until such time a time that they regain their integrity and make peace the priority for not only those they agree with, but especially for those with whom they disagree.

BOYCOTT THE BS   — NO MONEY FOR KPFT!!!

CALL KPFT AND TELL THEM HOW YOU FEEL:

713-526-5738

THE BOYCOTT IS WORKING!!!

The boycott we called for against KPFT is working! I’m told by an inside source working (volunteering) for radio station KPFT 90.1 in Houston, are readily falling short of their financial goals. We’re getting to them now! Please continue to call KPFT and issue an IOU pledge of support that you promise to pay if Leo Gold is removed from the airwaves. Our actions are working, please check this website for more information soon.

YOU CAN’T TAKE PICTURES ON THE TRAIN…I THNK…

I’ve contacted Metro offices at 713-635-4000 to find out if I can take pictures on the train. The operative seemed shocked that I would ask and said I don’t need permission. Then I told her what happened last night, and she said well METRO Police are the experts, and I should really ask them. So I called the Metro Police at 713-224-2677, and the first officer I spoke with told me that it was illegal for me to take pictures on the train. He explained that if I wanted to, I would need to get permission from MTA…written permission. When I asked if I was on the sidewalk would I be able to take pictures without a permit. Again, he stated no as it would also be illegal. I asked him what law I would be breaking. He said he didn’t know, but because of terrorism, I could not take pictures of the train. When I asked him what terrorism he referred to, he put me on hold and put me on with a supervisor who said the same thing.

When I asked the supervisor what law I would be breaking, and if it a misdemeanor or felony and what would be the nature of the charge, such as theft or driving under the influence, he admitted there was no law strictly prohibiting photography of the train, and that I would not be charged. He said what would most likely happen if I was taking pictures is detainment.

They would run my ID against their terrorist watch list, and if my name did appear on the list then they would take me down to the station, and wait for Homeland Security, and then they would probably release me as there is no law that has been broken. He said that if this happens to ask for a supervisor. Yea right, so what I can get tazed..? I don’t think so…

When I asked him what terrorism involves a private citizen taking images of the train, he said there have been several near misses where bombing plots have been foiled because someone reported a suspicious person taking pictures on the train. He said the media was not alerted to this, but it happens all the time.

So just to clarify, there is no law that prohibits photography of the Metro Light Rail in Houston, but Metro police have still been given the mandate to detain anyone they see with a camera. When I asked the officer, why would a Police Officer quote a law that doesn’t not exist..? He said he can’t control what each individual does when on duty, and he said to file a report if I want…

To some this might seem like much ado about nothing, but consider this, there has been no domestic terrorism since 9/11. There certainly hasn’t been any in Houston. These local police officers are clearly getting their mandate from Homeland Security.

This is a very clear violation of our civil rights specifically freedom of the press. If we don’t exercise this right, we will lose it. I encourage everyone with a camera, board the Metro Rail System and take pictures. Take as many pictures as you can as often as you can. Please post your experiences online and let’s take back our freedom before it becomes a legend. It’s up to you.