Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fort Lauderdale bans public photography, then agrees to lift the ban after judge orders it!

General Brand Engraved Combo SlateI've written about the craziness directed at photographers in Florida before. Well they're at it again. In Ft. Lauderdale Florida, they decided it was alright to ban all photography, filming and video by everyone on public property in part of the city. According to Ft. Lauderdale officials, it's all spelled out in City Ordinance Sec. 16-1.

It seems as though to many government officials, taking photographs in public, from public property such as streets and sidewalks, is a criminal offense. I guess these same government officials haven't read the laws they have sworn to enforce, or perhaps they are just incapable of understanding them.

I'm certain they haven't yet read the US Constitution, or if they have, the believe it doesn't apply to them, or the American public.
Just to get it out of the way, Ft. Lauderdale's Ordinance Sec. 16–1 states,
“Sec. 16-1. - State Offenses and county ordinances adopted
(a) State Felony.  It shall be unlawful for any person to commit, within the corporate limits of the city, any act which is or shall be recognized by the laws of the state as a felony, felony of the first degree, felony of the second degree, or felony of the third degree.
(b) State misdemeanor.  It shall be unlawful for any person to commit, within the corporate limits of the city, any act which is or shall be recognized by the laws of the state of the as a misdemeanor.
(c) County Ordinance. It shall be unlawful for any person to commit, within the corporate limits of the city, any act which is or shall be recognized as a violation of any county ordinance which is effective within the city.
(d) Penalties.  Any person convicted of violating this section, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld shall be punished in accordance with the penalty clause of the state statute that the person, corporation or entity was convicted of violating.”
In other words, it says, "if it's against the law in the State of Florida and Broward County, it's illegal in Ft. Lauderdale too."
Of course, Ordinance 16–1 has nothing to do with photography, trespassing, or public safety.
This all started earlier this month when Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Catherine Zeta-Jones came to town to start shooting their new film, “Rock of Ages,” in Fort Lauderdale.

The producers in conjunction with the city declared a 3-block downtown area, where the filming is taking place a no-photography-zone. Signs posted surrounding the area read as follows:
“Warning. No trespassing. Photography of this area is prohibited. Strictly enforced by FLPD. Violators subject to arrest. City Ordinance 16-1.”
Both private security and off-duty Ft. Lauderdale police were apparently enforcing the ban.  When questioned, regarding the ban on photography in a public area, a city spokesman stated that a crowd of paparazzi has been growing larger since the start of the shoot… As a result, the city considers the ban on photography “a matter of public safety.”

The ban included press photographers, Ft. Lauderdale amateur photographers, travelers to the city who wanted a glimpse of their favorite star, and even people walking by trying to catch a quick snap shot with their cell phone.

As part of the ban, Ft. Lauderdale police told photographers they were not allowed to be on a street leading up to where they were filming, because it was actually a “private access road.”

That “private access road” is named NW 1st Street. Somehow, that sounds like its a public street to me.

It was reported that one photographer was issued a citation (apparently for trespassing) for taking photographs from a public parking garage. He had paid to use the garage for his car.

Mickey H. Osterreicher, General Counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) sent a letter of complaint to Ft. Lauderdale Police Chief Franklin Adderley, questioning the constitutionality of the trespassing signs and photography ban. Mr. Osterreicher wrote, “Photography may not be restricted in a public place to accommodate the whims of Hollywood or the desire by your officers to please their 'second-job' employers.”

With the photography ban still in place, citing First Amendment violations, the South Florida Gay News and the Society of Professional Journalists, joined by NPPA, filed suit against Ft. Lauderdale and its police chief over the city’s ban on photography in a public area around the Hollywood movie set.

On June 21st, Judge Michelle Towbin-Singer of the 17th Judicial Circuit, in and for Broward County, Florida, issued a court order requiring police stop harassing photographers from taking pictures outside the “Rock of Ages” film set.

Subsequent to the court order, the City of Ft. Lauderdale finally agreed to no longer interfere with photographers taking pictures near the film set.

So, for now, in Ft. Lauderdale, the US Constitution is again the law of the land.


Walt said...

We have to stand up for our rights of photographers. Property owners and government, especially the police are out of control with their assault on anyone with a camera.

Susan Liber said...

I cannot understand why it is such a big deal to them....unless they want every one to pay $$ for a permit - or a fine.

Walt in Baltimore said...

It's just cops with their hand out, and Ft. Lauderdale wanting more fees and permit dollars from more movie companies which might want to film in their city, Susan. Cities which get a movie to film there get huge dollars from fees, and taxes on increased business, plus the prestige of having your city shown off in public in a movie.

In recent years cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia have added significantly to the city coffers with multiple films made there. It's why both cities have "film offices."

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