Fort Lauderdale Police "Rewriting Laws" To Harass Photographers

Carlos Miller

Fort Lauderdale Police "Rewriting Laws" To Harass Photographers

Acting as hired guns for the Rock of Ages film set, Fort Lauderdale police officers have been harassing, intimidating and threatening photojournalists trying to photograph actors in public.

The cops even went as far as to erect a sign stating that “photography of this area is prohibited” and that violators will be arrested.

One photographer was even issued a citation (apparently for trespassing) for taking pictures from a public garage, even though he had paid money to park his car in the garage.

“We had all paid for parking and the cop drove up and we walked down and one guy got stopped and cited,” said a Miami-based photojournalist who did not want to be named out of fear of repercussions.

“They’re making it very hard to do our job.”

The cops, who are working off-duty but getting paid by the movie makers to work security, erected a sign warning against trespassing, which stated that photography is prohibited.

The sign – in which they misspelled the word “subject” – refers to city ordinance 16-1, which does not state anything specific about photography or trespassing.

The ordinance addressing trespassing is in section 16-71 and contains subsection (D), which states that “this section shall not apply to peaceful picketing, public speaking or other constitutionally protected speech not in contravention of other laws.”

We all know that public photography, especially for newsgathering purposes, is protected by the First Amendment, so it moots their argument that these photographers are guilty of trespassing.

“They’re rewriting the laws as they see fit,” said the photojournalist in an interview with Photography is Not a Crime this afternoon.

Rock of Ages is based on a popular Broadway musical about the 1980s music scene. The movie will feature Tom Cruise, Russel Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin and Mary J. Blige.

Police have also told photographers that they were not allowed to be on a public street leading up to Boomer’s Family Fun Center where they were filming because it was a “private access road.”

But it’s hard to believe that a street named NW 1st St. is anything but a public road.

“We asked them to produce their permits for the road closure and they were unable to,” said the photographer. “I asked a friend who works in the permits department and he said there were no permits issued for road closures.”

The photographer also stated that they are using 500 mm lenses, so it’s not like they are getting in the faces of the actors.

The situation doesn’t appear to be much different than the incident in Hawaii last April because police are protecting the interests of the filmmakers instead of abiding by the Constitution.

UPDATE: This story has since been covered in the South Florida Sun Sentinel and Broward New Times.


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