Security interrupts Amtrak spokesman who says photos are OK in D.C.'s union station


A BB reader says: "A local news crew was interviewing an Amtrak spokesman at D.C.'s union station who told the reporter that photography is allowed in the station. During the interview, a security guard interrupted them to say that photography/video was not allowed. Brilliant video, and hat tip to DCist who posted the link."



  1. Awesome! Gotta love the US these days: we have a policy but we can’t tell you what it is.

  2. This clip is a thing of rare beauty.

    I’m not a believer in any religion, but sometimes events coincide in a way to make me think maybe there is a god. And that he has a sneaky sense of humour.

  3. Not too surprising he came over really. Security guards who think there’s a rule against photography and video, and look, there’s a guy with a great big camerea on his shoulder.

  4. yup,don’t even need cameras, just pantomime them. Digital is so small these days you’d have to be a foot away to know the hands were empty

  5. According to the video there may be some legislation in the works to allow photography “here”. I guess that means Union Station only. What we need is legislation that permits photography in semi public corporate owned spaces everywhere.

    So what is truly needed is for us to take back a part of “the commons” that corporations seized for themselves. They will fight back of course because corps are sociopathic control freaks.

  6. Takuan has it. Start miming picture taking, using a small black or silver box or squirt camera. When the guard tells you to stop taking pictures just tell him that it’s a fake camera. Drive the guards crazy with false positives. THAT would be worthy of a flash mob.

  7. @Neverender, my thoughts (and pun) exactly. Afternoon rush (five to six) would be perfect.

  8. Ugh.

    They have power because they have orange vests that say “SECURITY” on them so you MUST listen to them, right?

    I think the real problem is the wannabe cop security guards are terrified of being caught on camera doing something (or not doing something) that could get them in trouble with their bosses. So they use their supposed authority to badger innocent people.

  9. Check out this short video of what happened to my dad (Federal employee, grade GS14), when he tried to take a short cell phone video of a fountain at the IMF building in Washington DC.

  10. Takuan: I hate games like that. So I guess I see your point. That and bull moose, I wish I had never asked what the deal is with that one. Oh and if you click the link, you have to play the game, there’s no choice in the matter. That’s the kicker, and the link doesn’t explain that.

  11. #6 He might be a representative of Amtrak and he did say in the Amtrak portion of the place it was allowed, but Union station at least according to this story was managed by Lasalle. Security people tend to the ban first question after policy because its just easier… a flash mob might get them to change that, especially if the police are called and the policies are made clear (though mischief tends to still be something you can get tossed into the back of a cruiser for, and flash mobs definitely fall under mischief)

  12. Left Hand: “What are you doing?”

    Right Hand: “I’m not at liberty to discuss it.”

    Left Hand: “Well, what WOULD you be doing?”

    Right Hand: “Sir, if you’d come with me …”

  13. Beautiful. I am guessing there is a middle manager somewhere who decided to take on himself/herself the responsibility of protecting Union Station from the damaging effects of photography.

  14. Loved the part when they say the presence of the news media seems to have a “calming effect” on the security. Snark!

  15. I want to make up regulations and laws then enforce them on people too! Where can I get an application for Homeland Security? I love playing pretend.

    Sarcasm aside, I’m glad this is getting some media attention even if it is just local news.

  16. It’s odd that the newspeople open the clip by explaining how they typically get permission before filming anywhere. Why didn’t they pull out a permit when they were confronted by security? Did they not bother getting one or did they just not show that bit during the segment because it made better news to show them being harrassed? I’m not sure of the laws in DC but it may be that a professional film crew needs a permit in public places where a snapshot photographer does not.

  17. I work next door to Union Station, and I own a digital SLR. The only time I’ve been confronted was when I tried to use a tripod at Christmas. Was told the rules were posted. Couldn’t find them anywhere – then discovered they were on the doors – as small white text on a clear sticker (yeah, that’s really legible). If you actually stopped to try to read these, you’d be run over by people entering/existing the station.

    See my Union Station photos:

  18. Typical needledick rent-a-cop.
    They love throwing around what little authority they have, even for non-existant rules.

    They are basically the annoying hall monitors of the adult world.

  19. I’m not sure of the laws in DC but it may be that a professional film crew needs a permit in public places where a snapshot photographer does not.

    Film and television crews need to pull permits. If the news crew needed to pull a permit to film news stories, the news would just consist of talking heads.

  20. The security cops are NOT being dicks, they are just doing their jobs. It is the corporate owner who is the real dick. They are the ones who formulated the current policy, the guy we see here is just the poor slob they hired to do their dirty work. The interview that Fox really ought to do, but I doubt they ever would, would be with the CEO of LaSalle.

    Power always does whatever the f*ck it wants to do unless you push back.

  21. any law against writing “security” on a five dollar traffic vest and walking around taking pictures? You’re not TELLING anyone anything, if asked directly, you’ll deny being security”… just a thought.

    Also: flash mob: at the appointed moment, everyone pulls out their vests and starts interrogating other “security”. National Security Day, where everyone dresses up as “security guard”?

  22. I’m surprised they would stop a Fox crew from filming on the chance they were there on official Whitehouse business.

  23. I think the scariest part of the video is how the Fox “news reporter” says “We all know we need to fill out this form in triplicate to MAYBE get permission to take a picture”. WTH? No wonder the security guards think it’s not allowed. Fox is telling them it isn’t.

  24. @32;
    writing “security” on a five dollar traffic vest and walking around taking pictures
    That might just work. The artist Banksy says the best way to get away with painting on walls isn’t to sneak around in the dark but to show up in broad daylight with traffic cones, scaffold, loud music and lots of commotion. If anyone questions you, bitch about the low pay.

  25. Looks like we are heading to land where the assumption is you need to get permission from someone with authority (who is not present) to do what you’ve been doing without permission for years and years. Doing documentary video in Japan, I continually ran into these types of confrontations. “Do you have permission to take pictures?” “Yes, I have the permission of all the people I’m photographing.” “No, who gave you the authority to take pictures?” “It’s why I’m here…” So many people stepped up NOT to claim they authority to say yes or no to taking pictures, but rather to assert that it was impossible to do so without having the authority to take pictures. The blanket assumption was that somebody did have that authority, and they aren’t here…

  26. the diploma/licence/authority mentality still runs strong in Japan. My favorite was the question about my “spearfishing license” – as proof of proper training to kill fish, not a license granting right to take them. The querrant never did understand.

    Next guerrilla theatre: one in orange vest with toy walkie talkie, clearly labelled “NOT Security”, other in photographer drag (bags of gear, silly hat, but NO actual camera, just miming, wearing “press badge” that says “NOT Photographer”, both standing and gesticulating (but not really arguing if you listen) surrounded by ring of confederates taking real photos. Should be good for Youtube.

  27. writing “security” on a five dollar traffic vest and walking around taking pictures

    All that accomplishes is it fills in the chinks of their legal firewall. Sooner or later the central problem will have to be confronted. Reclaiming the Commons.

  28. Fox News reaps what they’ve helped sew. And isn’t that legislation already drafted in the form of the effing Constitution??

  29. Yes yes I know that vsync. All I’m saying is that people should focus their ire on the real problem. BTW, having invoked godwin, you lose.

  30. These jobsworths are nationwide. Last Sundy about 35 of us Flickr-ites local to Los Angeles had a photog rally at one of the subway stations in Hollywood, then took the subway downtown and did a shoot at L.A.’s Union Station. Everything went well. No problems from security… until…

    … shortly after the group broke up, the security guards were again harassing photographers. :-(

    I’d love to see federal legislation on this.

  31. Sounds like the Amtrack spokesperson was making a distinction between the train station- which is managed by Amtrack- and the mall, whis is managed by the mall owners (ie: LaSalle). Actually, most mall-style shopping centers prohibit photography, although it tends to be enforced more enthusiastically against the folks with bigger cameras (ie: news crews). Why? Because it’s private property, and it’s their private property, so they can, and they do, I guess. Same reason they can hustle teenagers off the premesis for “trespassing” if they aren’t shopping concertedly enough.

  32. #26 zizzy … those are some lovely shots … I was also delighted to see that you visited Dallas and snagged a shot of Reunion … my own aspirations here:

    Some images to contemplate … sorry, I don’t use Flickr much …

  33. Resnovae says, above, “[a mall is] private property, and it’s their private property, so they can, and they do.

    What legal terms are there for “public” private property?

    Sure, my store is my private property, but not as private as, say, my bedroom. A mall may also be “private property” but it’s again even more public. A train station may be run and maintained by a a contracting company, but is it really “theirs”?

    Is there anything in the law, even just a different set of words used, that acknowledges these kinds of distinctions?

  34. UNION STATION IS NOT PRIVATE PROPERTY. I’m really getting tired of people off-handedly assuming that a major train station in the nation’s capitol is somehow private property. It is not. Don’t take my word for it, take the word of the Congresswoman representing the District of Columbia, who is thoroughly familiar with the agreements under which Union Station was rehabilitated, leased and operated:

  35. Just started following this story – but it seems every link to the video has been removed. The story is no longer on the DCist, and the page has been deleted. What gives?

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