Texas Liberal

All People Matter

You Have The Right To Take Pictures Of Infrastructure—Business And Government Work Together To Deny Basic Freedoms In An Open Society

Houston public radio station KUHF reported recently about people in Houston who take pictures of  things such as refineries and bridges here in Houston.

(Above–You have the right to take pictures.)

These persons are often stopped and questioned by police and by private/corporate security officers.

From the KUHF report—

“As part of his work as a community organizer for environmental causes, Juan Parras takes photos of refineries and petrochemical plants near the Houston Ship Channel. Sometimes, he says he’s made to feel like a criminal for doing it.  In some cases, they’ve actually wanted to delete the pictures we took,” he says. When that happened, Parras says he just told the officers he didn’t know how to do that…People who photograph or videotape “critical infrastructure”– what the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) calls things like  refineries, bridges and airports — might be plotting an attack. Or at least that’s the message the government is publicizing in an effort to encourage all of us to report suspicious people…An anti-terrorism video produced by the City of Houston shows a woman taking notes and photos at a light rail station. When a police officer approaches, she tries to leave. The next shot is of the woman being held in the backseat of a patrol car….In July of 2010,  Austin-based photographer Lance Rosenfield was on assignment for ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative reporting project, which was doing stories on accidents and pollution releases from BP’s big refinery complex in Texas City….But after getting shots of a “Welcome to Texas City” sign along a highway that borders the refinery, Rosenfield noticed he was being followed by a private security truck. When he pulled into a gas station, a couple of Texas City police patrol cars pulled in. Rosenfield showed officers the photos on his digital camera. Satisfied he had done nothing wrong, the officers said he could go. But they also insisted on giving the personal information they’d collected from Rosenfield to a security officer from BP who also showed up at the gas station….Under federal regulations, the chemical industry is actually required to promptly report security “incidents” to the National Response Center, providing “as much … information as possible,” including addresses and phone numbers of people apparently like Rosenfield. “

I take many pictures around Houston for my blog and for another project I’m working on.  I was once stopped and asked questions by private security officers of a large energy company while I was on City of Houston property. These persons told me that if I did not give my name that they would call the police and the Coast Guard.

I’ll be honest—I gave in and told them my name because I was nervous and I did not want to deal with it all.

But the truth is that you have rights in this society. You have rights even given the collaboration of big companies and government to deny our basic freedom to observe and make note of what is around us in life.

Top Texas conservative blogger David Jennings wrote last year about being questioned by authorities after taking pictures of Houston Metro train facilities. 

The ACLU has a page of rights that each of us have to take pictures in our supposed land of the free.

Here is that page.

Here is some of what the ACLU says on this issue—

When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such photography is a form of public oversight over the government and is important in a free society.

When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs. If you disobey the property owner’s rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).

Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant.If you are arrested, the contents of your phone may be scrutinized by the police, although their constitutional power to do so remains unsettled. In addition, it is possible that courts may approve the seizure of a camera in some circumstances if police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that it contains evidence of a crime by someone other than the police themselves (it is unsettled whether they still need a warrant to view them).

Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances.

Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations. Professional officers, however, realize that such operations are subject to public scrutiny, including by citizens photographing them.

Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws. For example, if you are trespassing to take photographs, you may still be charged with trespass.

September 25, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

What Will Houston Mayor Annise Parker Say And Do About 47% of Houston Kids In Poverty?—Where Are The So-Called Progressives And The Democrats?

A few days ago the office of Houston Mayor Annise Parker offered up the following status update on Facebook–

“Forbes Magazine says, “if you want to see a successful 21st century urbanism, hop down to Houston and the Lone Star State.” What do you think?

Here is the link to the article that the mayor was referencing. The Forbes article was written by Joel Kotkin.

Here is one thing the article says—

“Although it also attracts a large number of low-skill migrants, Houston has considerably expanded its white-collar workforce. According to the Praxis Strategy Group, Houston’s ranks of college-educated residents grew 13% between 2005 and 2008.”

Don’t worry folks—Those low-skill migrants are so busy doing our dirty work for us for low wages, that they don’t have time to bother you in any other regard. That is unless you are one of the folks obsessed with the immigration status of the people you exploit.

Houston has good points. There is a feeling that you can come here from someplace else and make a life for yourself and your family.

There is, however, another side. It is a side of Houston that Mayor Parker has never addressed  since she became Mayor earlier this year.

Here is what  a May 27 report from Houston Public radio station KUHF says about the free school meal program in Houston schools

Their (The Houston Independent School District) statistics show 47-percent of Houston children live at or below the poverty level. They say that means more of them are likely to go hungry. However there’s no poverty requirement to receive food with the summer program. They say any child can just show up and he or she will be served. When you combine the parks and school locations, there were 430 sites that served free lunch last summer. They say Texas ranks lower than most states when it comes to feeding its children and they’d like to add even more sites….”

47% of kids in poverty. I’d say that this number is an everyday crisis. We (try to) address an oil slick when it befouls the Gulf of Mexico. We make our dirty air in Houston an issue.

What about nearly half our kids living in poverty? Isn’t that a big crisis?

Mayor Parker must be a public advocate for our City of Houston, yet she must also acknowledge that we have many terrible problems in Houston that go beyond drainage and budget issues.

Mayor Parker is a Democrat who began her career in politics fighting for the human rights of gay folks. Where is her commitment to the best ideals of the Democratic Party and to the betterment of all citizens in Houston regardless of how much money they make?

It is up to liberals, progressives and Democrats in Houston to demand more of Mayor Parker.

The future of Houston involves more than pushing for more bike trails and urban rail lines.

June 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 5 Comments