To follow up on our previous story, we're not sure whether the Muni photography ban is the biggest threat to our personal freedom, but we have a feeling that if we don't blow this all a little out of proportion, it will probably be ignored. Civil liberties in our country seem to be dying a death by inches, and what worries us more than simply having a rule banning photography on Muni station platforms is that it is being enforced without having been publicly reviewed or even codified in a legal document. Secret laws selectively enforced is not our idea of Democracy.
First of all, Steve's story has been corroborated in many details by other sources we found in comments to both his own post and other posts regarding the issue. For instance, Merlin Mann of 43 Folders fame relates the following tale in the comments to Jeff Veen's post on the topic:
"Except for the police intervention point, this is similar to an experience I had at Castro Station Sunday before last (2/6). I was taking this photo and heard the voice over the Station intercom very pointedly announcing that taking photos on MUNI is illegal.
"I walked straight over and asked what law I was meant to be breaking and under whose authority I was being asked to stop. They had no idea. I wouldn’t leave without a code that they could cite. Spent 12 minutes watching two workers flip through comb-bound books to find the reference to this notional law. After 15 minutes, one of the booth folk stepped out, and was very nice but not particularly helpful. I said 'Is this a city, state, or federal law that you claim I’m breaking?' and she said, (yes, I wrote it all down), 'I think it’s because of 9/11.'"
When we emailed, he pointed out that "I don't have an axe to grind with those MUNI folks—whom I perceived thought they were just doing their job. I guess I'm more troubled by the idea that some apparently baseless legal zeitgeist might be allowed to persist at a higher level at MUNI." Indeed.
Steve got in touch after we had emailed him and we had a lengthy chat about the incident. Steve wanted to stress that no cause will be served by angrily confronting, verbally abusing or otherwise disrespecting Muni and law enforcement officials. He comes from a law enforcement family, both his step-father and mother having been officers. While the actions of the two officers in this case extremely upset him, it behooves us to remember that they are following the rules as laid down by their superiors. Of course, in the end, we are their superiors -- hence the concerns over the lack of public information on the ban.Photo of Castro Station by Merlin Mann.