GOD BLESS AMERICA!
I took this photo Sat Aug 20, 2005 in the 50th St./Rockefeller Center station on the F/V line in Manhattan. Most of the stations in Midtown now have this notice, but this station went the extra mile and prefaced the search statement with "GOD BLESS AMERICA!"
I personally found this juxtaposition to be a little disturbing. So I took a photo of the sign. However, as I got ready to snap the photo, the station agent in the booth pictured began to wave and yell at me. People are always waving and yelling in New York, so I continued to snap my photo. He then got on his microphone and yelled at me that cameras were not allowed, nor photo-taking, in the subway. Technically, I was outside the paid area, but inside the MTA property. I had a short discussion with the agent, explaining that I had seen many signs telling me what I could not do, and had never seen any sign admonishing me not to take photographs. He assured me that no photographs were allowed in the system, although he could not provide me with any signage or printed policies. He was not pleased. But he did not threaten any further action, so I left.
Later that day, at another station, I asked a NY City police officer for the Subway rules and regulations. He said he only had his personal copy, but gave me a phone number to call to request a copy. He also said he understood the rule to apply to professional photographs, e.g. "You know, with tripods and stuff." I asked another station agent for the rules and regulations and he said he didn't have any, or know how I could get some, but that the pertinent ones were printed on the side of the booth. I asked about photos, and he said "yeah, they don't want you taking pictures in the subway." I asked if I could take a picture of the rules posted on the side of the booth, and he said he couldn't give me permission, but he also wouldn't stop me, so I took this, the only record of the rules I seemed to be able to acquire anonymously.
Interestingly, two days before that, I took these photo, and was stopped and questioned
by a NY City plainclothes police officer, who showed me his badge and wanted to know
what I was doing, and he asked if he could see the photos I just took. I told him I didn't like
the idea, but that I would comply. I showed him the photos immediately.
NYPD: "Why are you photographing the beams" Me: "Because they are beautiful" NYDP: "Are you an artist?" Me: "Isn't it beautiful?" NYDP: "You understand why I'm asking you ... because of the recent bombings in London?" [I turn around, slowly, with my arms up. I am wearing shorts and a tank top.] Me: "but you can see that I don't have any bombs on me." NYPD: "You understand I have the right to ask you ... because of the bombings, the attacks?" Me: "Have you read the Bill of Rights, lately?" NYPD: "I have the right to ask you." Me: "So I took some pictures..." NYPD: "No, it's OK, you are free to go. Have a nice day."I left.
Incidentally, I did use the photos as art, but I think that is beside the point.
I felt the officer was professional and courteous, but obviously following a policy which he was given. I was incensed that he made me feel very nervous for being a tourist and taking souvenir photos, and claimed that photographing a transit structure was somehow related to terrorism, and then didn't even take any information from me that would have allowed them to track my supposed terrorist activities. So clearly the intent was to quell my freedom of expression and my freedom of the press (since I do publish my photos on my website). Despite what some silly judge in California says for now, I feel bloggers ARE the press, just as proponents and printers of the Declaration of Independence who posted the Declaration and distributed leaflets were exercising their freedom of the press, and who could have been tried by an unjust king for sedition for their actions. It was these injustices that caused the Founding Fathers to set up the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the first place.
I followed up with the NY City Citizen Police Review Commission, who said that since my complaint was not with the officer, but with the departmental policy of questioning tourists who take photos, that they would forward me to the Chief of Departments office, who has yet to get in touch with me.
Well, I don't believe that government employees should be invoking their personal gods to sanctify violations of privacy, but I hope someone blesses America, because we are going to need it if people don't wake up and start shouting from the rooftops.