Avi Adelman Is on a Crusade to Squash DART's No-Pictures Policy, and It's (Sort of) Working

Categories: Transportation

NoPhotoAllowedWithoutAuthorization.jpg
Avi Adelman
Moving away from Lower Greenville last summer, longtime neighborhood activist Avi Adelman could have turned over a new leaf. The camera he used to shove in the faces of drunk teenagers and public urinators could have been stowed in his closet. He could have quietly pulled the plug on Barkingdogs.org and traded the life of a semi-professional activist/troll for one of monk-like solitude on the leafy streets of Junius Heights.

He didn't. Adelman isn't really cut out for serene contemplation. And though his new digs are far from the strip of bars and restaurants dedicated himself to patrolling, the move has given him the freedom to lock on to other targets. Like Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

See also: Junius Heights Welcomes Barking Dog Avi Adelman By Burglarizing His New House


For the past two months, Adelman has been battling the transit agency over its photo policies. The dispute started on the morning of March 1, when Adelman arrived to photograph the aftermath of a fatal train/car collision at 2nd Avenue and Scyene Road in South Dallas.

Adelman was told to join the gaggle of TV cameras in the designated media area, a small rectangle of concrete along the DART right-of-way that Adelman says provided a poor view of rescue efforts. Instead, Adelman headed for a body shop across the street. He was met there by a DART cop, who ordered police tape stretched across the entrance. Still refusing commands to go to the media area, he continued snapping photos from sidewalks and the median on Scyene Road.

Four days later, Adelman filed a formal complaint with DART, claiming that its officers had interfered with his First Amendment rights by attempting to stop him from taking photographs. DART summarily dismissed his claims and accused Adelman of jeopardizing public safety.

An excerpt from DART's findings, detailed in a March 20 report to Police Chief J.D. Spiller:

The scene involved in a fatality and officers must stay alert and in control of the entire scene for public safety and maintain the utmost respect for the victim and their family. The accident scene was located in a high traffic area and trains were still single tracking as more and more people arrived to the scene to observe which elevated the risk to all involved. Adelman admits in his complaint that he strongdid not obey verbal commands from teh officers at the scene, to stay back at the designated safe media area and therefore distracted the public safety officials which escalated the risk to all public safety personnel and himself.

That reasoning predictably struck Adelman as bullshit. So he engaged the National Press Photographers Association, whose lawyer, Mickey Osterreicher, fired off a letter supporting Adelman's right to photograph and offering to help train the agency on the finer points of the First Amendment.

"While the press may have no greater right of access than the public, they have no less right either," he said. "It is one thing to establish a perimeter for public safety and evidence retention. It is quite another to set up artificial barriers for no other purpose than to keep the press at bay while allowing the general public to wander freely just beyond the crime scene tape."

That failed to sway Spiller, who this week wrote Adelman a letter affirming the agency's initial take, which is that officers had demonstrated no "malicious intent" and had done nothing wrong.

"[M[y conclusion is that you were not prohibited from photographing the accident scene as evidenced by the photographs submitted with your complaint."

But Adelman's crusade against DART -- which he assures us is going to continue -- hasn't been a total loss, as he and Osterreicher have managed to wring a smaller concession from DART. No longer will the agency enforce a "no photo" policy at the CityPlace and Convention Center light rail stations, according to Spiller's letter. It might even take down the no-photo signs.

Osterreicher, who's based in Buffalo, says DART's no-photo policy appears to be illegal for two reasons. One is that it was apparently put in place by the agency without going through the proper rule-making process, which would have included a public-comment period and other measures of transparency. Second, Osterreicher says, it wouldn't pass constitutional muster because DART could offer no legally justifiable reason to keep people from taking photos.

Quizzed by Adelman, DART spokesman Morgan Lyons wrote in an email that the no-photo policy has been in place for more than a decade and was put in place at the behest of the Department of Homeland Security or the TSA.

"I hear this all the time," Osterreicher says. "'Sorry, you can't take any pictures here. You remember 9/11?'"

Give it much thought, however, and the "because terrorists" explanation falls apart. As part of the training course the NPPA offers to law enforcement agencies, Osterreicher shows a photo of the White House that could be taken by poking a camera through the front gate. Then, he shows an aerial image of the White House pulled from Google Earth, which, with its clear picture of the grounds and surrounding buildings, would be infinitely more useful for someone planning an attack.

"I use it as an example of how stupid it is to be saying 'No, you can't be taking pictures of this building, you can't be taking pictures of that, it's Homeland Security.' It's nonsense."

Adelman wrote us last night to say that the lifting of the photography ban hasn't gotten through to the rank-and-file. Last night, hours after receiving the letter from Spiller, he hopped on the train and started snapping photos at CityPlace. A couple shots in, the disembodied voice of a surveillance camera-watching security officer boomed across the PA system and told him to stop. Adelman ignored the voice and kept taking pictures.

DART Reply to Intefering with photographer letter by AviS.Adelman

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.



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74 comments
sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

all around the country and starting with the Obams admin, the rights of the people are being usurped so that the


gov can move freely while the people suffer, the total antithesis 


of the founding fathers 



Neal_K
Neal_K

This is a good resource for anyone interested in the crusade against local authorities who thuggishly deny the First Amendment rights of ordinary citizens:


http://photographyisnotacrime.com

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

A guy named A/V, goin around recording light and sound...... hmmmmm who'da thunk it.

This is good crusade for him. He is totally in the right.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Speaking of cityplace station...can we get some wifi please and keep Larry Norths trainers off the stairs.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Avi Adelman is not a good jerk.

scott11111111
scott11111111

Look, we can all nitpick the particulars but I'm glad that somebody is standing up to BS official overreach.  We should all do more of this pushing back on creeping bureaucratic rules. 

Anonamouse
Anonamouse

I wish I had the money/free time to dart (hah!) around the city sticking my nose and camera into anything that would get me in the news.

Note that I'm not criticizing your right to do so, Mr. Adelman, just wondering what your day job is.

JustSaying
JustSaying

I am just glad that someone is looking out for the rights of the camera phone creeper. It is their constitutional to snap upskirts and downblouses at the train station. A world without documented nip slips is not a world that we want to live in.

AviAdelman
AviAdelman

God, it's fun to see the Avi haters are still out there. Amazing what happens when you spray a little RAID on the ground.

That said, here is the COMPLETE UNEDITED set of photographs from the train/car incident. The driver was killed instantly. The train was going 15mph over the limit (per the victim's lawyer) - she never had a chance.

http://dallascreative.com/dart_allphotos/

As to jumping the yellow tape - never happened. Even DART's cops have a problem understanding how a zoom lens can put you into a crime scene without being INSIDE the yellow tape.

As to DART cops not being malicious, look at this photo and tell me this finger-pointing, veins-popping-out-of-head cop was NOT trying to intimidate me?

http://dallascreative.com/dart_allphotos/images/DSC_1800_ecu.jpg



becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

Any chance the anti-CityPlace Sam's brigade can get Sam's to move over by Avi's new home?  There are some vacant lots on East Side.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

For once I find myself in complete agreement with Adelman. 

The right to take photographs in public places by now is firmly established by numerous court tests. I have myself photographed DART trains, stations and right[-of-way on numerous occasions and intend to continue doing so. There are numerous photos of DART operations in full view on the internet. The Homeland Security argument is bogus.

Moreover the right to photograph police as they go about their work has also been firmly established, given a few basic ground rules. The photographer must not interfere with police as they go about their work. The photographer, like everyone else at the scene, must not cross the yellow tape.  (Your rights end only if you cross the tape, not if you photograph what is happening there.) 

 

DallasHammster
DallasHammster

@sweetliberty17761776 Actually, the harassment of citizens taking photos in public places started under George W. Bush (see 09/11, Patriot Act).  Get the history straight.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@Sharon_Moreanus The air is so wretchedly stagnant where those stairs are that the trainers running up and down them might be shortening their lives by doing so.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@JustSaying 

How anyone could miss that sarcasm is beyond me.  But for any of the readers that are a little slow on the nuances:


SARCASM WILL ROBINSON SARCASM

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@JustSaying Saying -- this isn't about snapping upskirt or downblouse. You know that. That's a clear violation of the law and actionable in any court. This is about your right to use your camera anywhere you can use your eyes. 

ruddskitown
ruddskitown

@AviAdelman  When you throw that big party, perhaps you can rid local blogs of ALL foreign shit spewers like R.

unclescrappy
unclescrappy

@AviAdelman While many may bash you. I appreciate how you stand up no matter what the outrage is for what you believe. And you have far more transparency that any Govt or Police official I have ever seen. Good example is how you posted & shared the link for the 193 pictures you took. 


Amazing how many people are such Hypocrites and dont even realize it.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@AviAdelman
Avi - Not familiar with the particularities of this case. I note that this DART crossing is protected. If the driver ignored the signal or drove around the crossing gates, the driver was in the wrong. Period. I don't care if the DART train was traveling at warp speed.

Cops are not necessarily malicious. But they often have an exaggerated idea of their authority and their war against citizens with cameras is a clear instance of this. It is a war they cannot win, in the courts or on the streets, where more and more citizens have cameras and use them. 

What's your big beef with DART, by the way?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@AviAdelma

Looks like the cop is telling you "you da man".

One of these days, when you win that huge settlement from some city, gonna throw a big party?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@TPFKAP

Hootchie-mamas shop at Walmart, not Sam's.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul Former Paul --Police interference with the rights of photographers is a continuing problem despite numerous court rulings in favor of photographers.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@bmarvel

You'll eventually beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride; imagine the reaction from, say, McKinney PD.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

The sub station needs a update but it rocks to take the longest escalator in Texas to the train.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

I'm just happy it's a cat and JJ delivery free zone.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@bmarvel "-- this isn't about snapping upskirt or downblouse."


What about sideboob?



JustSaying
JustSaying

@bmarvel Sarcasm, dude. I didn't mean to get it in your eye. Its just been building up for a few days and I underestimated both its volume and velocity.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@ruddskitown

How many anonymous, unregistered sockpuppets have polluted this site with? By my count, I see now five, maybe more.

ruddskitown
ruddskitown

@TheRuddSki  HE DOESN'T LIVE IN YOUR TOWN SO WHY ARE YOU BITCHING ...BITCH!



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See also: Can Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Keep Dengue Fever Away From Key West?


JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

You can tell from Spiller's response that DART cops will never get the right training on civil liberties because their chief so clearly doesn't get any of it.

Darren
Darren

@wcvemail @bmarvel Look up the guy who does photography under the moniker "First Response Photography". He lives in McKinney and often shoes up on scene whenever there is a big first responder presence in McKinney or in the surrounding towns in Collin County.


I think it helps that he is chummy with all the firefighters, but he doesn't get the same sort of nasty reactions that Avi gets from DART Police.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@wcvemail @bmarvel  If nobody ever took a ride in defense of our freedom, where would we be?

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@scottindallas @bmarvel @AviAdelman I stand corrected., Scott. 

"Particularity" would refer to  Avi's finicky insistence on getting every inch of his own way,. "Particulars"would refer to the details of the case.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@TPFKAP

Over three years and several stops and tickets, no cop even commented on my cam, even when I turned it on them as I was being ticketed, must be my winning smile.

On another note, while it's great that people are pushing the authorities by getting in their face with legal recording, I'm glad that I no longer have to compete with their demonstrations in order to do the job I was paid for.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@JimSX

You can tell from Spiller's response that DART cops will never get the right training on civil liberties

The last two paragraphs of his response seem to contradict your assumption, unless you think he's lying.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@JimSX He really needs to talk to his counterpart at the New Jersey Transit Police. They leaned the hard way. 

Even better, he needs to have a long heart-to-heart conversation with his lawyer.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@JimSX 

Well, then he needs the understanding beat into him.  Strongly-worded letters, lawsuits, baseball bats...whatever it takes.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@Darren 

Good for him, Darren. But you need top know that the right to photograph is not reserved to folks who  are
"chummy with all the firefighters." That right, according to the courts, belongs to all of us as an extension of our free-speech rights. 

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@bmarvel

At Chili's with our rifles?

JustSaying
JustSaying

@Montemalone I was actually making a sarcasm facial joke. Like I blasted him in the face with my load of sarcasm and pretended to feel bad that it got in his eye. You brought it back around to taco shits. I like your style. Body functions = comedy gold.

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