THIS IS NOT A TOURIST AREA!!!!

posted June 29, 2005 by Con Bard Drew

Con Bard Drew

There's been an article published recently in Railfan & Railroad magazine, covering the Canadian Pacific railroad operations along Delaware Ave. in Philly. Lots of good info for out-of-towners who want to visit and photograph it.

The people whom choose to try are in for a VERY rude surprise.

Saturday evening, a friend (Sean) and i were down there taking pics of trains, plus we wanted to get some of the ancient pier buildings before they disappear (to build an IKEA, or something).

While getting the last few shots, a civilian on a motorcycle rides up and asks us what we're doing. We tell him, and he says to us "Well, you might as well wait around for the cops, because I already called them on you."

We wait. Cops arrive 25 mins later. There's two cops, the young one gets out and starts giving us a hard time. Tells us there are NO PHOTOGRAPHY signs "All Over The Place". Tells us we can't take pictures of the port anymore due to 'Homeland Security'. He REALLY didn't like it when we tried to tell him that there is ONE sign in the area (which reads "No photography ON facility", and it's posted a block away). Insisted that we had to be stopped so they could "Ascertain Who You Are" because we were "Taking Pictures In A Non-Tourist Area". Using big words, lots of emphasis, not giving a shit about both sides of the story, and relying on tactics used by psychological bullies. (The marks of a truly professional law enforcement officer.)

All this, simply on the word of the one civilian whom had called us in; without the officer even witnessing the photography himself.

The other cop (who was actually pretty cool and reasonable) eventually tells us that the port has been handling military shipments, and that's why the DRPA has been so anxious about security in the area. Well, that's a reasonable explanation (if it is true), but how is anyone supposed to know there's a photography restriction if there's inadequate signage?!

None of the piers are military-owned; they're all private companies. Both State and Federal law allow the photography of anything visible from public streets, regardless of trademark laws or vague concerns about "security". (law states that they can make photography of Military/government facilities prohibited, but that it must be CLEARLY POSTED so.) There are NO signs posted detailing the photography ban, and such a ban would be legally unenforceable anyway.

The reality is, anyone with sinister intentions can ride by with a camera phone, take a series of pics, and be gone before ANYONE notices. Or, they could just use one of the many web-based satellite photo services to get their pictures without even having to leave the house.

So i've contacted the ACLU, and i'm stopping by the 4th Precinct this evening to pick up a copy of the report, as well as file a complaint against the young officer for his behavior.

Following that, Sean and i were thinking about getting together a group of 50+ people, to stand around down at the port, taking pictures of any damn thing we can see from the public road. As it's completely within the letter of the law, they can't ashcroft all of us. Call the news services, get them to send camera crews down, and document our protest.

Would any of you like to help?

Link to poll in my journal (to consolidate results)

If we can't get enough people together, we'll postpone. No sense in taking unnecessary risks. (and of course, if we do learn that it actually *is* legal for them to ban photography, we'll be pursuing that through legal channels, so no gathering will be necessary.)