Some days our elected yet non-voting Representative does me proud. Yesterday, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) took on Union Station’s non-policy on photography with a good grilling of David Ball, President of USRC, Daniel Levy of Ashkenazy Acquisition, and Bryan Chambers of Jones Lang LaSalle. (Norton’s meeting recap.)
Before you get confused, Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC)is the federally chartered nonprofit that is redeveloping Union Station, which leases the non-Amtrack portion of the station to Ashkenazy Acquisition, which subleases retail areas (and maybe security) to Jones Lang LaSalle.
Why do these fools matter? Because the security guards are harassing photographers in Union Station despite it being a public space – in action and maybe still in legal parlance. And as DC area photographers know from Free Our Streets, photography is a First Amendment right in public space, even if its leased to a private corporation.
Yet there’s been some serious security theater tom-foolery with Union Station. Let’s go to Lightbox DC for Norton’s backgrounder:
A real time display of the confusion about access came when Channel 5, a major television outlet here was shut down by security personnel while interviewing the chief spokesperson for Amtrak, who was explaining that photography was allowed.
Embarrassing eh? Well not as much as the foolishness of Daniel Levy of Ashkenazy Acquisition who showed us the level of intelligence in the re-leasing world with this conversation captured by Greter Greater Washington:
Transportation ranking member John Mica (R-FL) is also attending the hearing… He also complains about panhandling, having been panhandled four times while eating lunch waiting for a train. Mica jokes that the security guards seem too preoccupied with photographers to address panhandling. The now more apparently stupid Mr. Levy suggests perhaps if it’s considered public property for photographers, then it’s public for panhandlers too. Norton reminds them that the law isn’t that simplistic.
I’m wondering if the three blind mice need a simplistic showing of photographer’s rights. Not so much a Photo Walk as maybe a photographer’s sit in. A whole grand hall filled with photographers, sitting quietly in black t-shirts, cameras held high, snapping away in solidarity and in freedom. A press event guaranteed to make CNN and a whole stink of bad press.
Maybe then USRC, Ashkenazy Acquisition, and Jones Lang LaSalle will realize that harassing photographers in DC doesn’t make sense or cents.
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