No, this is NOT a political commentary. Those of you who either really know me, or were with me for the Norfolk Photowalk back in July, know that I had an encounter with a Wackenhut/G4s security guard who told us that we could not take pictures of any of the buildings in the Financial District in Downtown Norfolk (Commercial Place area). I immediately challenged him, reminding him that neither Wackenhut nor Bank of America make the rules on public property; that is the bailywick of that pesky document called the Constitution. I went right on taking photos, ignoring his alleged authority. The following business day, I contacted the local General Manager at Wackenhut, talked with him about the encounter, and told him that I expected his staff to be more knowlegable when they confront the public like that. I even e-mailed him a copy of "The Photographer's Right" by Attorney Bert Krages.
It seemed like the situation was quelled. How wrong I was!
Today, I was again in Downtown Norfolk doing some shooting, and I was over by the fountains (the one that is a city block long with all of the concrete cubes in it) and a Wackenhut rent-a-cop said I could not take pictures of the bank buildings. I turned on my video camera. The rest of the story is now posted on YouTube!
This is a case where the law is CLEARLY on my side, and I made it clear to this little lady. I would have followed through with asking for their arrest if they had bothered me any more. Her superior officer came out, but never bothered me, other than to make some funny faces at me while I was shooting the buildings. People, we HAVE to be willing to stand up for our right to photograph. There is NO logical, reasonable or actual reason to forbid people from taking a picture of a 40+ year old building! Or anything else for that matter. The best part of the day was when I spotted a police officer; I flagged him down to confirm I was within my rights, and he infact, did! NO ONE can make up rules that take away your rights under the law - not Wackenhut, not Bank of America, nor anyone else! And I for one, will not stand by for it. If we don't stand up for our rights, who will? Just ask the people of Poland, Italy, France and many others who survived WWII.
Take care, and thanks for letting me ramble on tonight! And remember, don't let ANYONE take away your RIGHT to take a photograph. If we don't stand up for our rights, soon we won't have any!
This morning, I had a very cordial conversation with John M., the Bank of America security manager. He called from an anonymous number, and while we were exchanging some anticdotal material, we got disconnected. I then returned the call (he was shocked that I had his number, since he called blocking his number. I explained that he could NOT hide his number from me, it was available to me at anytime!) Anyway, he sounded appalled that Wackenhut/G4s did this. He checked the BoA policy manuals, and it is very clear that no one, without permission, may take photos ON BoA property. His belief is that the rent-a-cops at Wackenhut/G4s are misreading the word “ON” into the word “OF.” Again, that was just his opinion. He assured me that they understand that people can take care of the building, and will clarify this to Wackenhut/G4s.
During our conversation, he asked me why I was taking photos of the buildings. I explained to him that I don’t have to have ANY reason; it is a constitutionally protected activity, and is in no way illegal. he kept asking until I guess he got tired of asking.
I am sure I am now on some sort of Bank of America ‘watch list” and expect the FBI any time. But, the whole incident was interesting, and enlightening. I hated being a hard-ass with that little guard, but if we don’t stand up for our rights, we will soon not have any!