Park’s cam­era pol­icy fought

ACLU seeks re­ver­sal of ban on pro­fes­sional equip­ment at Per­sh­ing Square con­certs.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Meg Bern­hard

Pho­to­jour­nal­ist Cliff Cheng typ­i­cally pho­to­graphs large demon­stra­tions tak­ing place in Per­sh­ing Square, so he was ea­ger to present a dif­fer­ent im­age of the down­town Los Angeles park at its six-week con­cert se­ries this sum­mer.

But he was dis­suaded from snap­ping pho­tos of bands at their out­door per­for­mances when he learned of a pol­icy that bars pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phy equip­ment from the space dur­ing con­certs, amount­ing to, in his opin­ion, a vi­o­la­tion of the 1st Amend­ment.

Prompted by a com­plaint from Cheng, the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union on Aug. 3 sent a let­ter to city of­fi­cials de­nounc­ing the Per­sh­ing Square sum­mer con­cert photo pol­icy and re­quest­ing its re­ver­sal.

Photo, video and au­dio record­ing de­vices — in­clud­ing “pro cam­eras, monopods, tripods, selfie sticks, iPads or pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phy/video equip­ment of any type” — are barred from the Satur­day night con­certs at the re­quest of some performers, ac­cord­ing to the Per­sh­ing Square web­site. The pol­icy does not bar peo­ple from tak­ing pho­tos or videos with their cell­phones.

The pol­icy was set up per con­trac­tual agree­ment with artists, the web­site says.

But the rules il­le­gally re­strict free speech rights, the civil lib­er­ties group con­tends.

“The city doesn’t have a right to con­tract away the peo­ple’s 1st Amend­ment rights be­cause some per­former wants it that way,” said ACLU of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia chief coun­sel Peter

Elias­berg, adding that “the ban is grossly over-broad.”

Elias­berg wrote the seven-page let­ter, ad­dressed to the city at­tor­ney and the gen­eral man­ager of the De­part­ment of Recre­ation and Parks, on be­half of more than a dozen jour­nal­ism and pho­tog­ra­phy or­ga­ni­za­tions.

The let­ter also de­nounces the park’s ban on the dis­tri­bu­tion of pro­mo­tional items and fliers dur­ing con­certs with­out prior per­mis­sion.

“Nei­ther the pho­tog­ra­phy/videog­ra­phy ban nor the ar­bi­trary per­mit­ting scheme for the dis­tri­bu­tion of the ex­pres­sive ma­te­ri­als will be up­held in court as valid time, place, and man­ner re­stric­tions on the First Amend­ment,” the let­ter said.

Rose Wat­son, a spokes­woman for the Recre­ation and Parks De­part­ment, said jour­nal­ists can con­tact bands ahead of time to re­quest per­mis­sion to take pho­to­graphs. She added that any­one can take pho­tos with their cell­phones.

“It is a public space. We film and tweet all the time. Ev­ery­one has their phones out,” Wat­son said.

She spec­i­fied, how­ever, that cam­eras with tripods were banned be­cause they took up too much space. Wat­son was un­cer­tain if the pol­icy barred pho­tog­ra­phers with hand-held pro­fes­sional cam­eras from shoot­ing.

Wat­son said the de­part­ment is re­view­ing the ACLU’s let­ter and ex­am­in­ing the word­ing of its pol­icy. The city at­tor­ney’s of­fice is also re­view­ing the let­ter, a spokesman said.

Cheng, the pho­to­jour­nal­ist, had reached out to the pro­ducer of the B-52s, per­form­ing Satur­day in Per­sh­ing Square, to re­quest per­mis­sion to pho­to­graph the con­cert, but a band man­ager de­nied his re­quest.

Wayne Sharp, a man­ager for the band, said that he asked the city to dis­cour­age con­cert­go­ers from tak­ing pho­tos and that he would pre­fer pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers not shoot at all. But he ac­knowl­edged there was lit­tle he could do if some­one took a pho­to­graph.

“We can­not con­trol the laws,” Sharp said. “If the law says we are play­ing in a public space … we don’t have any con­trol over that.”

Jamie Brown, a singer in the band Boo­gie Knights, which per­formed ear­lier this sum­mer, said the group was un­aware of any photo pol­icy.

De­spite the pol­icy, Cheng said he plans to at­tend an up­com­ing con­cert with a group of pho­tog­ra­phers to see if of­fi­cials will stop him from shoot­ing the per­for­mance.

Shari B. El­lis, a free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher, took pho­tos with her cell­phone at the Toad the Wet Sprocket con­cert on Aug. 5. She said she left her cam­era be­hind af­ter a friend warned her ahead of time they were barred, but no one told her to put down her phone.

“Part of the en­joy­ment for me is doc­u­ment­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence,” El­lis said.

Lawrence K. Ho Los Angeles Times

A CROWD at a 2012 con­cert at Per­sh­ing Square, where a pol­icy bars cer­tain photo equip­ment.

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