Howdy folks. You know one of the things that I have always found fascinating ever since I first got into this business of conducting First Amendment Audits, is how so many people have this belief that they can control what an individual does on public property.
Ok lets look at something realistically. Cameras are a part of everyday life these days. Anybody that has a cell phone has a video camera. In many cities, such as right here in Santa Maria, California, you walk down the street and there are cameras mounted on light poles that were put in by the city. What are those cameras looking at? Who’s monitoring the footage those cameras are producing? What are they going to do with that footage? A lot of “why’s?” but not a whole lot of answers. Well, I got an answer.
THERE CAN BE NO EXPECTATION TO PRIVACY WHEN IN PUBLIC.
But still you have these bone heads who seem to think that they can control what takes place on public property, such as whether or not you can video record them. A great example of this took place just a few days ago just outside the main entrance of the Phillips 66 San Francisco Refinery in Crockett, California.
I recently traveled to the Bay Area so I could meet up with my good friend, and fellow auditor, Matthew from First Amendment Tests and conduct some audits. Truthfully, auditing wasn’t the only reason I found myself in the Bay Area. But I’ll keep this to myself. 😉 Either way, Matthew and I decided to team up and conduct some First Amendment Audits together.
Now before I continue let me point out something. Matthew and his First Amendment Tests channel is one of, if not the single most, biggest reason I became involved in the auditing community. Watching his videos inspired me to get out there and start conducting First Amendment Audits of my own.
The first place that Matthew and myself decided to take a look at was the Phillips 66 San Francisco Refinery located in the East Bay community of Crockett. The main reason we chose this particular location was because of an incident that occurred here just a few months earlier during an audit Matthew was conducting of the refinery. In this case Matthew was contacted by two Contra Costa County Sheriff’s deputies who attempted to bully him off of public property. One of these deputies, whom I would later run into myself, tried to claim that it was illegal for Matthew to film the refinery under the “Terrorism Code”. Mmmm.
Upon arriving at the Phillips 66 refinery we noticed that there was a lot of activity up at the main entrance. So the two of us decided to post up there. It wasn’t long before we were approached by a hostile, and verbally aggressive, private contractor who seemed extremely agitated that we were filming him driving into the refinery.
Now let me stop for a moment and explain something. Our attention wasn’t even on this particular individual. Instead it was on the activity occurring at the gate, which at this time consisted of vehicles entering and exiting the refinery. So if this bone head had just stayed inside of his vehicle and kept on going about his business, I wouldn’t be writing this article right now. But instead he chose to make our business his business by turning his vehicle around, driving out of the refinery, parking, and then walking across the roadway only so he could stand in front of our cameras and make a fool of himself.
Throughout the encounter this bone head kept trying to claim that we had no right to take his picture. Now think about this for a moment. Does it make sense to stop what your doing only so you can go out of your way to approach someone with a camera and tell them not to take your picture? To me it doesn’t. But hey, if anybody out there knows something I don’t then please don’t hesitate to educate me.
This brings me to another thing I’d like to point out. What could this bone head possibly be hiding to cause him to go berserk over a camera? Does he owe back child support and his doesn’t want the Mother of his children knowing where he works? Is his driver’s license suspended? Does he have a warrant out for his arrest? Could he possibly be a registered sex offender?
In the end the only thing this bone head could do was the old walk of shame. But it wasn’t long before deputies from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department were on the scene, one of which was the same deputy who had hassled Matthew just a few months earlier.
This deputy, who looked as though he had just graduated from the Skinhead Academy in Northern Idaho, tried to claim that there were signs posted up and down the road stating that we couldn’t stop, park, or be where we were. First of all, we weren’t parked. Second, there were no such signs posted anywhere stating that we couldn’t be where we were. There were signs indicating that the refinery was private property and that there was to be no trespassing. But we were not on Phillips 66 property. Instead we were standing on public easement. I guess Deputy Dumb doesn’t understand the difference between private property and public easement.
In the end the only thing that Deputy Dumb and his partner could do was get back into their patrol vehicles and do the old drive of shame. Of course they did so without thanking Matthew and I for the free education they received that day. But hey, some folks are just unappreciative.
But what all of this brings me to is one single question. When are people finally going to understand that PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT A CRIME? Thank you for reading and I look forward to bringing you more news from the First Amendment Audit community in the future.