A few years back, I visited the City of Los Angeles for vacation. We stayed downtown (GASP!!) It was awesome. We didn’t rent a car. We walked a lot, but mostly we rode the bikes we rented and then kept them in our hotel room (GASP). It was also awesome. There are some very beautiful places in Downtown.
One of them was a block away from our hotel, across from the Los Angles Public Library (a spectacular place in its own right). It was the Bunker Hill Steps (night picture above). The steps climb past the US Bank Building. It is “private property,” but the stairs are a “public right of way.” One night, we were walking the stairs going to our hotel. We had been out that evening taking “night pictures.” My nephew and I wanted some shots of the stairs. A few minutes after my nephew took out his camera and began taking pictures, a security guard from the US Bank came out and told us that not only were we not allowed to take pictures but that we had to leave. “No photography allowed,” he said. I asked him why. He said “Homeland Security.” The mere words almost made my head explode. I said, “so people can take pictures with their cell phones, but not their cameras?” He said that was correct.
From my worldly ways, I knew getting into an argument at this time and place was pointless, and unwise. We left. To be honest, the “anarchist in me” was furious, and I was still trying to make sense of any of it. My nephew who is an amazing photographer began to tell me about a whole “movement” in the United States that has pitted photographers against authorities. I have come to the conclusion, that “security forces” would snatch a camera in a heartbeat, but would never dare confiscate a phone. Not quite wanting to believe any of this, we began to “Google” some select words about this trend. What I found was infuriating.
I will admit, I wasn’t just annoyed about the “whole photography idea.” I was mad about being “bossed around on a public right of way; especially for such an innocent act as taking pictures. It’s not like we were marching down the street with pistols and rifles; oh wait, that would be fine because the Constitutional Forefathers wanted us to do that. Why else would they have given us the second amendment? Sorry, YES………I digress.
The only solace in this whole experience was that we came across an article about a man who was teaching a photography class. One day he brought his students to take photographs on the same stairs in question. Needless to say, he got the same treatment and was just as outraged. In the end, he didn’t “go so quietly into the dark, dark night.” He had quite the spirited discussion with the security guards about access to public right of ways. Oh, did I tell you that the instructor revealed in the article that he was a retired Los Angeles Police Officer?
Keep off the bridge, keep off the beach, keep off the concrete lawn. I might have to comply for the moment, but that doesn’t have to mean I like it.
John Q Public; Meet Zulu Delta!
I will leave you with a song. The original words were written by the ultimate force for “This Land Is Your Land;” Woody Guthrie. This is not that song, but I like it. The music was added many years later by Wilco and Billy Bragg. Play it loud!