Train fanatic Christopher Fussell was shooting photos and video of Baltimore’s light rail train when he was stopped and detained by Maryland Transit Police. The police insisted that it was illegal to take photos and video of the transit system telling him that he “need[s] to cease and desist with the photographing and continue on your way.”
When Fussell challenged the officers by requesting the statute that he was violating, they offered none. Rather, the officers continually cited 9/11 and brought up Maryland’s anti-wiretap law, which is completely inapplicable in situations like this.
Fussell missed two trains during the half hour that he was detained. He recorded the entire encounter on video and uploaded it to YouTube in a 2-part series (embedded top and below).
The ACLU is on Maryland Transit Authority’s tail for this kerfluffle, stating, “Photography is expressive activity that is protected by the First Amendment. If you are legally present, you have a right to take photographs.” The ACLU has told the MTA that if it doesn’t satisfactorily resolve the misinformation among its officers by September 1 and make appropriate amends with Fussell, it will file suit and bring the Constitution with it.
As you watch the below videos, it’s pretty obvious where the officers were completely making stuff up – stuttering about the Patriot Act and 9/11. For starters, perhaps it would be a good idea for the MTA to pass around a notice to its officers that cites pre-existing law (e.g., the Constitution) and explains that photography from a public area is not a crime (like the federal government did).
[via Baltimore Sun]