Note: This post is originally from 4/9/2005. Due to it’s popularity, I’ve re-posted it, and added more photos from that fateful day.
I’ve noticed some 404 errors as people tried to access this page after my recent redesign. So, I’m reposting this.
I got a call this week from the ACLU. They’ve decided they’ve taken the issue as far as they can with the King County Sheriff’s Office. They’ve received assurances from KCSO that there will be new training procedures in place to educate officers on handling photographers. I got my compact flash cards back, and an apology, and assurances that it won’t happen again (We will see.) Be vigilant. If it happens to you, go public. Contact you local news stations and papers, and contact the ACLU.
I would especially like to thank those at the ACLU who got involved and took the case as far as they could.
HELP! HELP! I’m being repressed!
On Saturday, 4/9/2005, a friend and I were photographing inside Pioneer Square Bus Station when we were stopped by a King County Sheriff’s Deputy and Transit Authority Police Officer and told what we were doing was illegal, and that the area was considered restricted.
I asked the officers explicitly if we were breaking the law. To which the Transit Authority Officer responded, “There’s no law, It’s just sort of an unwritten rule.” The Deputy rebuked my friend and I for not using common sense and repeatedly mentioned the word “terrorism”. The Deputy then confiscated my digital film and informed me that the compact flash cards would be sent to a lab to see what was on them. I offered to format the cards while he watched but he refused.
I did not receive a ticket or citation or receipt for my belongings. On parting, the officer asked if I had any questions, and I politely suggested that they may want to put signs up letting people know that it was illegal to photograph here. To which, he responded, they weren’t “going to waste time posting signs for something that’s common knowledge.”
Since then, I’ve been researching the internet to find anything I can with regard to photographing bus stations or mass transit. I cannot find anything on the Department of Homeland Security website, or the King County Sheriff’s Office site, or the King County Transit Authority site stating that it is illegal to photograph at Pioneer Square Station.
If the Officers were not truthful, I believe this constitutes theft and a violation of my Civil Liberties.
In my research, I have also discovered that I am not the only Seattle photographer to have this problem. Last year, photographer Ian Spiers had a similar experience with Homeland Security Officers while attempting to photograph the Ballard Locks. The officer’s that confronted him made up bogus laws and forced him to leave. Spiers’ story gained national attention briefly.
All across the country, photographers in major metropolitan areas are experiencing the same violation of liberties. The stories are alarmingly similar.
Police are making up their own rules and enforcing them in the name of Homeland Security. These daily assaults on our freedom are becoming more and more Orwellian.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to Freedom everywhere.” Years from now, when the interest of these infractions has compounded, and our progeny asks us, “How could you let this happen,” What will be our answer?