I received an email this morning from Art Wong, the Assistant Director of Communications/PIO for the Port of Long Beach with regards to the recent case of photographer harassment by the Long Beach Harbor Patrol that I blogged about yesterday. I will print his email response to my request for clarification from their department as to what authority myself and photographer David Sommars were told we were not allowed to shoot from a public sidewalk in the Long Beach Harbor last Friday night and then respond to his email.
Here is his email response in full:
“Generally, we’ve asked our Harbor Patrol officers to tell photographers that for safety and security reasons they should come to our Admin Building, and present identification. When they come to our offices, usually I or someone in our Communications Division talks to the photographer about where they may safely shoot from the public right of ways. Our concern is for the safety of the photographers, so that they’re not run over by trucks. Also the security of the Port, especially in the years since 9/11, we tell photographers that they are only allowed in public areas. We need identification of the individuals and vehicles so we can keep track of who we’ve advised, and so we can communicate that info to our Harbor Patrol officers and the officers watching on our surveillance cameras. Commercial photographers, however, need a permit so our Harbor Patrol officers can secure the area in which they’re working, so that traffic can be re-routed. In the Sunday night it seems that the officer thought you were trying to enter a private area and you were a commercial photographer. You, and other photographers, have a right a take pictures from public right-aways. But for your own safety, and for the security of the Port, we have asked our officers to be as vigilant as possible. If they were too zealous, please accept our apologies and contact me to arrange another visit.”
This response from the Port of Long Beach is complete and utter BS.
David and I were nowhere near any private property whatsoever in fact when we were told to stop shooting by the Long Beach Harbor Patrol. The photo above is a clearer photo of the location we were at when we were confronted. We were clearly on a public sidewalk on an overpass — nowhere even remotely close to any private property entrance. We were more than 100 yards away from accessing any private areas whatsoever. The photography I published of their Officer clearly shows both the officer and his patrol car on the same overpass from where we were shooting. Here is a link to the overpass where we were shooting from on a Google Map to get a better perspective that we were nowhere remotely close to a private area when this confrontation took place.
The fact that the Officer would suggest that he forced us to stop shooting because he “thought we were trying to enter a private area,” is a bald faced lie. This Officer is a liar who is trying to justify his act of harassment in some way after the fact. I would encourage staff at the Port of Long Beach to examine the photograph of the Officer, the bridge above and the Google Map link. They should know the location where we were shooting and should also know that we were nowhere near any private areas whatsoever when this incident took place.
Secondly, the incident in question took place last Friday night, not Sunday night.
Finally, I think it is a huge stretch for the the Port of Long Beach to claim that the Officer who ejected us from the Port thought that we were “commercial” photographers. We were simply two guys with cameras who clearly explained to the officers that we were doing “art” photography. We were not impeding traffic in any way. We were not a professional film production crew. We were never told that we were being ejected because we were “commercial” photographers. We were no threat to ours or anyone elses personal safety. We were told we had to leave because we were not allowed to shoot the plant that we were shooting from a public sidewalk. This response is just even more CYA BS from the Port of Long Beach.
It is unfortunate that rather than take responsibility for their actions, apologize for violating our Constitutional rights, and offering to change how they enforce their anti-photography campaign, that they’d rather try to justify our eviction from public land that our taxes pay for and chalk it up to a “misunderstanding,” on the part of their officers.
The response of course wouldn’t be complete without at least one reference to 9/11 in it. This response from the Port of Long Beach is very, very disappointing.
If you think that this sort of response is unacceptable, please take a second and digg this story here.