Independence Day Photo Shoot

DC Area Photographers Stage Independence Day Photo Shoot to Challenge Ban on Photography

Washington DC area photographers, fed up with developers and security officials attempting to restrain their right to take photographs in public spaces, will challenge the bans this Independence Day in the true spirit of American patriots.

Since 9/11, photographers have increasingly complained about security guards and others interfering with their right to photograph in public spaces. When amateur photographer Chip Py was stopped in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, a Washington, DC suburb, in mid-June by a security guard who told him that photography was banned in downtown Silver Spring, his fellow photographers sprang into action, planning an Independence Day protest in the style of our founding fathers.

On that day in mid-June, Py was referred to Peterson Companies, a management company with a contract to manage the downtown Silver Spring area. According to blog entries at www.freeourstreets.org and http://mocoprogressive.blogspot.com/2007/06/photography-banned-in-downtown-silver.html.com, the company falsely told Py that downtown Silver Spring was private property. He said a company official, Stacy Horan, told him that the company has a no photography rule to protect itself from bad publicity and to protect chain stores from having their concepts photographed.

Py also stated in a blog entry at www.freeourstreets.com that he was told by other citizens of free speech restrictions against campaigning, petitioning and protesting in downtown Silver Spring.

One photographer who plans to participate in the Independence Day protest noted that he was arrested for taking photographs in Moscow in 1997.

“While you might expect that in Russia,” he said in a June 25 blog entry titled “Why Am I Participating?”, “we live in a country founded on freedoms of expression, one of which the Supreme Court has now enshrined as photography.”

Research into the Peterson Company role in downtown Silver Spring by citizens interested in the dispute and reported on the mocoprogressive blog show that downtown Silver Spring is public, not private, property. One segment of Ellsworth Street is closed and leased to Peterson Companies for $1 per year, but even that segment is leased subject to a public right of way.

Silver Spring citizens have poured many millions of tax dollars into reinvigorating Silver Spring and many of them object to a private developer treating their downtown as private property. Local listserves are abuzz with discussions and commitments to attend the July 4 protest.

Photographers and other members of the community will gather at noon, bearing not arms but cameras, on the temporary astroturf at the corner of Fenton St. and Ellsworth. From there, they will walk en masse to the leased portion of Ellsworth street and begin snapping photographs. This public effort is aimed at taking back public spaces from private developers attempting to usurp them from the citizenry and reminding elected officials that restrictions against photographs in public spaces was not appreciated at Red Square and will not be tolerated in and around our nation’s capital.

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