Security guard: no photography in Union Station; Congresswoman: Oh yes there is!

MattW sez, "The Online Photographer has a great clip of Fox News reporters talking to the head spokesman of Amtrak at DC's Union Station about how photography in public is completely allowed. While they're shooting, a security guard comes up and tells them to turn the camera off." Don't miss Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes's reaction interview in which she says, in no uncertain terms, that Union Station is public property and photography is unequivocally permitted there! Link (Thanks, Mattw!)


  1. I’ve seen Eleanor Holmes Norton speak several times; she is really great!

    Unfortunately, since she represents DC she doesn’t actually get to vote on any bills in Congress. She’s techinically a “Delegate” not a congresswoman.

  2. #2: It’s a shame that the sensible ones don’t wield the true power.

    Speaking up when things like this go down needs to happen more often.

  3. I’m at least glad that no one with any actual influence on policy making seems to believe photography is terrorism – it really only seems to be the security forces, who don’t even know what they’re doing or why.

  4. I hope in time that there is a final no nonsense understanding of this situation, that can be applied to any public space. When it comes to private space obviously thats a whole other set of understandings ie whatever the owner of the private space is willing to allow. But when it comes to truly public spaces lets get everyone facing in the same direction.

  5. It just amazes me that a speaker so brilliant as her is so detached from everyday reality.

    No, it is public, just try taking photos there. You’ll know how public it is when the guards round you up.

    No, seriously, tell them it is your civil right.

    HA we sold all that crap off 7 years ago

    give up, stay home, bleat like the sheep we are.

    Mark Slouka has a brilliant article in June’s Harpers Magazine on the issue Democracy and power.

    “Lincoln had it right: “If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher.” We’re off to a fine start.”

  6. Stupendous!

    I misread the blurb at first and somehow thought that Eleanor Holmes was also at Union Station when the security guard told Fox News and Mr. Amtrak to buzz off- THAT would’ve been priceless.

  7. Cstatman

    I think you need to run your eyes over that post again – it might make sense to you…

  8. Rikf,

    I did watch and read. over and over. She is a brilliant speaker, and it is wonderful that congress is ‘considering’ discussions on this. And fabulous that the supreme court would support freedom.

    However, the stark reality is, out on the street, in real life, none of that applies. Cops/guards/authority figures will bully any and everyone they can. It does not matter what the rules are, and what congress may want, at the moment you are being confronted.

    I’ll give you a crisp shiny $5 bill if you use the phrase “but this is against the constitution and my civil rights” when confronted by an authority figure, and get any response other than “are you trying to make trouble?”

    again, Eleanor Nelson Holmes? Brilliant, we need a roomful of more like her, in those big rooms of power.

    But in reality, the country as a whole is facing this authority crisis. and we are rolling over and taking it.

    mmm, feels good.

  9. SO the response is… go there. Take an assload of photos. Get harrassed, etc. Sue for any and all damages/ whatever happens. Make a huge stink and see what happens then.

    It seems that someone really needs to make ahuge deal of it when they get harrassed. The law isn’t held by security guards, or even congress. It is held by the courts, and all your lwayer would need to do is point to the fact that it is not private property, and that no law of any kind prohibits the photo taking.

    If people can make frivolous lawsuits and win why can’t people make intelligent ones?

  10. Public property? I was at Union Station less than 2 weeks ago and they have signs posted on the front doors that Union Station is private property.


    It doesn’t matter *EVEN IF* the property is private, as Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes informs us on the video. The area in question is a “public space”, a train station, and even if Donald Trump owned it and declared it a no-photo zone, he’d lose in court as public space provisions are well-established precedents in the law of the USA and the findings of more than one Supreme Court ruling. Again: private ownership is not a grant of authority over Constitutional and inherent rights of people on the property if it is a public space. And YES, all you mall owners who’ve been arresting/expelling people who wear anti-war t-shirts, you have no right to do so : a mall is a public space. As the Congresswoman says, we need a few visits to the Supreme Court or Congressional woodshed for the “private property” lords in our midst to get the message that they aren’t running feudal keeps exempt from the Constitution of the country they live in.

    As I’ve mentioned in countless forums, if private owners of public spaces can shut you up, the only place you can express views antithetical to their positions is your home — if the homeowner’s association doesn’t hear you outside and invoke a “private assocation” rule to evict you.

  12. Actually, Catbeller, that’s not the case. I don’t know about a train station, but at least in a shopping mall, a private operator is perfectly within their rights under the U.S. Constitution to limit speech on their property. That is, unless they’re in California, Oregon, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado, Washington state, or Pennsylvania. In those states, the state constitution gives a broader free-political-speech protection in public-private spaces.

    You’re specifically referring to a case in March 2003 when a man was arrested when asked to leave a mall on Long Island for wearing an anti-war t-shirt. Dahlia Lithwick on Slate explains the legal framework here:

    I don’t really know how the various cases would draw the line for a privately-owned rail station, but at least in the shopping mall situation you describe, except in a few states, the mall’s rights trump the customer’s.

  13. Whom are you going to believe, an unarmed Congresswoman or a security guard with his hand on his pistol?

    I’m going to believe the guard. Deadly force trumps legislation.

    Constitutional government is going to go down in history as “an interesting experiment, while it lasted.”

  14. For those interested in this issue, I believe the This Week in Photography podcast has a current edition titled ‘The War on Photography’, a term they’ve been using in previous discussions to talk about the rise in persecution of public photography.

  15. adamnvillani:
    Except we’re talking (mostly) about photography here.
    You can take photos any place that’s open to the public, whether or not it’s private property.
    You don’t need permission; if you have permission to enter, you have permission to shoot.
    All they can do is ask you to leave.

  16. I grew up in DC. Congressional Delegate Norton is not bad for a politician. Sadly, she has no authority. She can say what she wants. All it does is maybe help arrange meetings with her congressional colleagues. But they don’t usually pay attention to her unless there is something in it for them.

    Nevertheless, regardless of what kinds of rules we make, the size and ubiquity of cameras makes such legislation pointless. It’s like trying to legislate CD copying with speedy $30 CD burners and 10 cent CD blanks being common.

    Legislators can legislate that pi must equal 3. It doesn’t change the facts on the ground. Judges tell us that ignorance is no excuse for the law. We need a similar dictum for our politicians: Ignorance of science and technology is no excuse for a bad law.

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