What’s Wrong with Public Photography from Private Property?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Public photography regrettably has become a suspect activity in the minds of some officials. Back in 2007, the ACLU-WA successfully advocated for a man whom Seattle police arrested for taking photos of police making an arrest near 2nd & Pike downtown.

A variation on this theme took place a couple blocks away last weekend at Seattle’s Westlake Mall. Security guards there tried to stop individuals from taking photos from its balcony of police actions at the Occupy Seattle demonstrations in the adjacent Westlake Park.

Yes, Westlake Mall itself is private property. But shoppers and tourists routinely go to its balcony to look out at the park – a public gathering place – and sometimes take photos of the scene and people there. Why should Westlake Mall security guards hassle individuals who choose to photograph demonstrations that are part of the civic dialogue that is vital to a democracy? Just what are they afraid of, or whose interests are they seeking to protect?

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