Photographers Banned for Life from Metro for Taking Pictures

It seems like every week there’s a new story of some photographer being hassled by law enforcement. Photojournalist Stretch Ledford and Carlos Miller of Photography is Not a Crime recently visited the the Miami-Dade Metrorail to ride through a few stations and see if anyone would stop them from doing non-commercial photography. They didn’t even make it to the first station.

Despite receiving assurance from Eric Muntan, Chief of Safety and Security of the metro, that non-commercial photography was perfectly fine, they still ran into a load of trouble with the private security and subsequently the Miami Police. Check out the video Miller recorded above to see what unfolded.

Here’s Ledford’s account of what happened, and here’s Miller’s.

Thanks for the tip, @stephanieldavis!

  • Andrew

    Do these photographers have nothing better to do than to test the law and waste people's time? There's a reason why photography and video taping is banned at places like these. These photographers may not be terrorists and may not mean any harm but most likely they will post their end result on the web somewhere for the entire world to see.

  • Paul Melo

    10 cops and not one of them knows the law. This bothers me to no end.

    This is one of my worst fears because I couldn't back down to stupidity.

  • Beto

    WTF?? why everywhere the policemen(women) are so idiots?? even when you show them that the law doesn't restrict to take pictures!!! these things make me angry!!

  • Dt

    “There's a reason why photography and video taping is banned at places like these”

    Actually, no there isn't, which is why it isn't actually banned at all. Did you actually read any of the above?

  • Brian

    Andrew you seem to have missed the point that photography and videotaping IS NOT banned there.

  • IanW

    I see a bunch of rogue and wannabe cops who need reassigning to janitorial duties 'til they learn what they can and can't do.

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  • Andrew

    It should be then. Sure, anyone can read up on a certain or specific law and think they're experts on the subject and try to embarrass everyone else but until these photographers know the entire law book with every detail, they should really stop wasting everyone's time. Granted the rent a cops don't know much and are just trying to do their jobs but I'm sure the actual police officers and detectives could be spending their time doing something far more important than try and argue with these two guys who obviously have nothing better to do but to prove a point. Sure you can argue freedom of speech, etc etc, but freedom without policing is how terrorism happens and how people die. And if you're wondering – no, i am not a cop.

  • Carlos Miller

    That's a pretty ignorant statement from you considering there is not a lawyer alive who knows “the entire law book with every detail.”

    Have you ever stepped into a law library?

    The bottom line is, we didn't call the cops. The security guards did. So they were the ones wasting the cops' time. And yes, I agree it was a big waste of time.

    But I sure as hell not going to accept these people's false interpretation of the law when it comes to taking photos on the metrorail.

    That's all we're talking about. Why should I have to know the entire law book before I can have an opinion on this one particular law?

  • Andrew

    Did you stop to consider it from a law enforcement's point of view? They're just trying to protect the people.

  • morealtitude

    I think the main issue at stake here Andrew, regardless of the legal side of things, is that actually, to think that my little photo of the inside of a metro train (one of the millions and millions of photos that gets uploaded onto the web each day) is likely to get noticed by some terror cell that is about to swoop onto an unsuspecting public, that that photo is going to be even slightly informative about security issues in a way that is going to assist the planning of a terror attack, and that as a result that photograph constitutes even the slightest risk to national security, is so full of outlandish assumptions as to be ludicrous. Really, if terrorist cells are planning to attack public transportation, they can do a reconaissance walk onto the train, take a look around, walk off again, and have learned everything they need to. It's not Fort Knox, and it's not the Space Shuttle program. It's a train. Door in, door out, stops at platforms, need a ticket to get on, with the occasional ticket inspector or security guard.

    Photographers get upset because law enforcement officers think they're saving the world by stopping photos being taken. In actual fact all they're doing is getting above their station harassing harmless members of the citizenry. And, as discussed above, without legal recourse as per citizens' constitutional rights (which they're supposed to be defending in the first place). As you say, surely they could have something better to be doing, like trying to stop some of the 12,000 annual gun deaths that occur in the United States (~100,000 gun deaths since 9/11 versus how many US citizens killed in terror attacks?).

    It is, of course, theoretically possible that the only reason there haven't been 100,000 terror-related deaths on US soil is due to sharp law-enforcement officers stopping photography on public transport, and if that causal link can be established I'll happily flip over to the other side of the argument.

  • Andrew

    I'm not trying to start anything or be disrespectful – it's just frustrating to me when people don't think twice about blaming law enforcement or saying things like “I see a bunch of rogue and wannabe cops who need reassigning to janitorial duties 'til they learn what they can and can't do” without even thinking twice about it from a different point of view. people are so quick to hate police until they actually need them. And when we need them, they're there for us.

  • Johninboca

    Andrew .. what part of the fact that exposing violations of the freedom of speech is wasting time .. Freedom of speech is a part of our Bill of Rights .. and our founding fathers seemed to think it was an important right .. its the very FIRST of the bill of rights .. Its one of the things that makes our country so very unique and very precious .. How many have actually died protecting our way of life .. Our way of life protected by rule of law .. and the law gives us freedom of speech and freedom of expression .. Might I suggest that if you don't hold all of our laws worth protecting, then you might as well live elsewhere .. Do you think your freedom would be protected in a countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, or Northern Korea ? We're not talking about a jaywalking ordinance here .. but the basic rights that we've deemed is a part of our Bill of Rights ..

    BTW .. I AM also a photographer and shudder to think that I could have been stopped and harassed like this back when my wife and I took a trip on this very same Metro just so I could do some photography ..

  • Andrew

    Don't preach to me the bill of rights – I served my time defending our nation. The BOR was written in a different time, just like the fact that the right to bear arms is outdated. For everything that can be argued regarding our rights, one must weigh the pros and the cons.

  • Dt

    “It should be then.”


  • Shawn

    Andrew, if you spent time defending this country, then what's now compelling you to call the cornerstone of our Constitution invalid? You're a disgrace. The right to bear arms is NOT invalid. If you bothered paying attention to the news instead of disrespecting our Constitutional rights, you'd have noticed that the Supreme Court of the United States validated the right of individuals to bear arms, and also connected that right with the 14th Amendment. Read up on it.

  • LeMouton

    So I assume they'll also have to ban all the tourists with their DSLR and video recorder? That's a lot of people I guess :]
    There is a law we shouldn't break, so if we don't break it why should we be punished? If they change the law, then we can talk again about this. But by now, there is nothing to talk, private security and policemen were just wrong, for that time.

  • Twalker294

    I see a bunch of rogue and wannabe “journalists” who need reassigning to janitorial duties 'til they learn what they can and can't do.

    What these guys did is ridiculous and it's people like this who give photographers a bad name. These exact kinds of confrontations are what has brought the war on photography to the point it's at today. These guys aren't helping, they are making the problem worse. The law enforcement personnel were much more patient and courteous than I could have been.

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  • Shawn

    Uh, guess what? They DO know. Unfortunately the cops and guards didn't. Carlos and his friend weren't the problem. Ignorant law enforcement and security were the problem. If they'd actually followed the law, there would have been no confrontation, and Carlos and his friend would have had nothing to show for their trip except maybe a nice conversation about LEOs and security honoring our Constitutional rights.

  • Aaron

    “And when we need them, they're there for us.”

    Bold statement. Especially since Stretch and Carlos needed them. And when law enforcement got there, instead of siding with the law, they differed to the security guards.

    That's where the problem is.

    It's not necessarily that 50 State Security decided to over step their bounds. It's that when Miami-Dade County Police showed up, they sided with 50 State Security and not the law.

  • Aaron

    What can they and can't they do? I'm not sure I understand what you're saying.

    The First Amendment is defined by boundaries on two sides and it's that fine line that needs to be defined. Are you saying that journalists shouldn't be able to “walk the line”?

    This right here is a direct result of what happens when journalists don't push the boundaries often– When they finally “find” the line, they discover that the 'higher authorities' have crossed the line and are overstepping their constitutional boundaries.

    If you give an inch they'll take a mile.

  • Adam @ Sit Down Disco

    Whilst I find it frustrating that law enforcement officials don't know the law, I find it infuriating that individuals like those conducting the “project” continue to hassle the people at the front line. The front line officials may not know how to deal with these situations, but you cannot simply go on harassing them like this and expect sympathy. Clearly these issues need to be cleared up at much more senior levels. So what should have happened is that once access to the Metro is refused, a letter to the relevant city officials should have been dispatched indicating the problems and let it run from there. Take it out on management, not the workers. The workers just have no ability to resolve these sorts of problems on the spot.

  • Morphixx

    if it wasn't as serious as it seems to be from the arguments above, it would make me laugh. I live in Leipzig, Germany, a city with trams and all that, but we don't have security like you do.
    My main point is, how does security fare with anyone who's not stepping up to them, telling them they're about to do non-commercial photography? What about all the tourists, mentioned in one of the posts above, who're doing this, day in day out?
    Fair point, that it is a waste of time, to some extend, but then, it has to be done as well. Otherwise this whole issue is going to run out of hands…

  • Shawn

    Adam, to quote a post on Photography Is Not A Crime:

    “Management DID know. It’s the front line people who do not know what laws they are trying to enforce and what laws to make up on the spot. If you ever get charged the incorrect amount at a store do you just say forget it and go home and write a letter?”

  • WAPhotog

    This. Exactly this.

  • Paul Jubenvill

    Indeed, they may be ignorant of the current laws, but this type of stuff will persuade and spur the production of new laws. The polite photographers (who simply show their ID when asked, for in this there is no harm done — can we show some respect for those in authority, or must we pick every gnat?) will suffer.

  • Thingone

    commercial photography requires a permit, otherwise it isn't illegal. What they were doing is perfectly legal. Don't you have anything better to do than to be incorrect on a public forum and end up looking like a jack ass?

  • Annie

    @Paul Jubenvill
    Why should we show respect of those in authority when they – at times like this – show no respect for our rights as individuals? The photographers in the film were polite and knew their rights but were then denied them by security staff.

  • Patrick Ahles

    protect which people from what?

  • Patrick Ahles

    Yes, please explain!

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  • Davebluez

    Andrew seems to be a rather naive and somewhat simple member of the stupid brigade who cannot understand the basic logic that it is attitudes like his that are actually causing the rot in our society. The issue here is not just the injustice to the original photographer, but a lack of education with the Andrews of this world. It's a real shame.

  • ajw93

    Double this. Now just imagine what a nightmare it is here in DC. Number three tourist destination in the U.S.! But here's the attitude people get, all the time:

    *oh no* don't take any *photos*. Snapping the monuments? Why do you hate America, you suspicious character?

    Besides, it's not like infrastructure details are *public information*, or anything.

  • ajw93

    Wow. Just, wow. “The BoR was written in a different time”?!?!?!? Oh my. Actually, while it's true that the eighteenth century was, you know, not exactly yesterday, let's focus on *why* it exists. It was written because, after *seven years* of bloody war, the utter failure of the Articles of Confederation, and bitter negotiation and infighting to get the Constitution ratified, people like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson realized that the original Constitution was actually *still not enough* and the BoR was introduced in 1791. It pushed ratification over the finish line and is enshrined next to the Constitution at the National Archives.

    You should come visit. It's free! In fact, maybe I'll visit this long weekend…you've inspired me!

  • marcus00

    While I agree that there is a gross misunderstanding of photography laws, intentionally challenging security and the police is not good for the photographic community in general. Bringing the war to the police will only result in stiffer, more defined photography laws that will hurt all of us. Look at the UK. Every week we hear a new story about police arresting or harassing a photographer. I read a story about a guy who couldn't even photograph his child's play due to pedophilia laws related to photography.

    Is it “technically” illegal to photograph there? No. Does that mean you should go in and purposefully challenge security or police? No. Before too long, photography will be the new skateboarding. Wherever we go to shoot, we'll be chased down and run off by security and the only way we'll be able to get anything done is in full guerrilla style.

  • Twalker294

    My point exactly marcus. You said it much better than I did but this is exactly my point :-)

  • Maxim

    I'll drop this here. It's written by Pastor Martin Niemöller.

    It's simply to remind you that we must fight against people who are stepping on our rights. Even if you don't agree with them, the right is still there. If you don't defend their right… one day… no one will be left to speak up to protect yours.

    “THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

    THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

    THEN THEY CAME for me
    and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

  • E.G.

    This would be amusing if it weren't frustrating… and even a bit scary.

    Many of you may be aware of the fellow who videotaped the Polish immigrant getting tasered in the Vancouver (Canada) international airport. Several RCMP officers ran into the situation where the guy was lost and disoriented, and before they could assess the situation properly (the Polish fellow had no weapon), they had tasered him a number of times. He died there on the floor with an officer's knee on his neck.

    A person waiting in the nearby airport lounge was able to videotape it on a cell phone. The cops, of course, confiscated the cell phone immediately. The cell phone owner (and some helpful lawyers) had the guts and brains to get the phone back. That tape was important evidence in the inquiry into the RCMP actions. The officers were found to be telling gross mistruths about the events. At this point, criminal proceedings are being considered against the four RCMP officers.

    Without a person there to document what would have happened, the cops' dishonest version of the story would have been believed, and there would have been no justice done. As of now, the cops' careers are, rightfully, in ruins… and they could be looking at substantial jail time as well. And that is the justice that they deserve

    Ban imaging equipment from public places, and you lose the capability to record violations of those in authority (and others) on the public.

    And THAT is what these, and other, cops are scared of. They want the right to continue to operate in the shadows, as it were. But, yes, times have changed. It's now impossible to do wrong, fabricate a tale, and be believed just because you are an authority figure.

    The part that is amusing, of course, is that cops, et al., think that they can actually ban recording equipment anymore. Yeah, a guy with a DSLR with a big lens is conspicuous. But, my little P&S is certainly not… and my cell phone, or even iPod, is completely invisible. Even if it were legal to stop me from imaging, it is virtually impossible to detect me doing it. And, even if you detect me, there are a dozen others also recording.

    Yes, times are different in that way. And, different in a better way. Speech is becoming more and more free all the time. And the authorities do not like it.

    Too bad for them. They'd better adapt, or they'll find themselves in the same quandary as the four RCMP officers in Vancouver.

  • E.G.

    Oh, and the crazy thing is that this has been going on since Rodney King, and the cops still haven't figured it out.

  • Paul Jubenvill

    @Annie: the photographers cannot deny that they were “staging” an event (not just photographing randomly)… security / police are doing a good job when they notice that an event is being staged. this is their job. this is why we need them. it was their business to become involved; they could not just assume these are harmless photo-dorks.

  • Art Scott Fotografie

    as I have had to say time and again to law enforcement as I hand them my copies of Krags Photographers Rights… is not the people with cameras you need to fear but that innicent looking old guy or the cutie girl that has a GPS enable cell phone that is snapping and sending coordinates out and whom is receiving them……..terrorist do not care about the greatness of a photo…all they actually need are GPS coordinates to launch an attack………..I get stopped for photoing in downtown Wichita but I can photograph all of the embassy's, govt buildings, bridges….anything….and never get questioned in Prague Czech Republic…….I did get asked on a night mission how I could talke pics of the Hrad and city at night with no flash…..I handed the military man a roll of Fuji 100 Iso film and said have fun…..he looked so perplexed that I told him very long exposures and a very good tripod and showed him my gear…….I was so ready to be slammed into the rock wall and handcuffed because thatis how I have been treaed in the US and I am a Natural Born Citizen of the US………

    I carry stack of Krags Photographers Rights with me all the time now…….I will say this, I spent a week shooting in Lexington Ky, the Financial District wherethe Int'l trade towers are and 5th 3rd Banks huge Big Blue stands and never once was I question by Police, Sherrif Officers or State police as to why a Kansan why taking detailed pics of their city…..not once…..I did have young officers asking me about what equipment I used….and no one asked for credentials of any kind not even my DL……….

  • Archer

    Simple. The police aren't paid enough to attract real professionals. Instead you get people who join up because it gives them a chance to carry a gun and seem important. That isn't all police, of course, but the ones who are competent and respectful generally get promoted into management, leaving the everyday enforcement to people who tend to be undertrained and undereducated for the job.

  • Serious

    See who cares if they were “Staging” it or not. The fact of the matter is the security personal where NOT doing their job. Full Stop. There job is to uphold the LAW, which is not allowing commercial photography without a permit. All other photography is allowed. The security staff did not know the law they are being tasked to uphold and it resulted in them harassing these two photographers.

    Think about if this happened in other parts of law.

    Say you are driving down the street and a cop pulls you over for not stopping at a yield sign. You say, no officer its a yield sign not a stop sign, its is not against the law to carry through as long as its clear. The officer replies “no, I know the law, you have to stop here is your ticket, have fun paying that 350$ fine”.

    What would you do ?

  • neuromonkey

    What possible harm could come from posting photographs of public places?

  • Erin Allen

    and it should be completely legal for them to do that, and also whatever they want while they abide the law. (which they were doing)

  • Phoenix12

    If photography and video are banned in public places, then the terrorists have won. They have won by creating such paranoia in America that our simple freedoms such as taking pictures and taking video are being taken away from us.

  • Phoenix12

    Protect people from what? I think these photographers are the ones that are working to protect our basic freedoms, like the ability to take personal photos in public places. I don't want to live in a police state.

  • Phoenix12

    Law enforcement are capable of doing good things *and* things that are not so good. Just because they do good things doesn't mean we should just ignore the not-so-good things they do, because we definitely know that power can corrupt and there can be abuses of power. Praise the good actions, criticize the bad actions. That's how we keep them in check and prevent abuses of power.

  • Phoenix12

    Wow, you are a scary person. “The BOR was written in a different time”?!?! Sorry, but I err on the side of preserving AND PROTECTING our rights and freedoms. Apparently, you'd rather live in a nation that operates more like the Communist-era Soviet Union.