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Photogs Fight Back

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Thu, Jan 22, 2009 at 8:51 AM

It's happened again. L.A. Daily reported Monday that photographer Anthony Citrano was prevented from shooting personal pictures last Friday evening at Pacific Park, supposedly a private property enclave tucked along the municipally owned Santa Monica Pier. Sunday, a local chapter of the National Photographers' Rights Organization (NPRO) purposely tested its members' rights to shoot in public places in downtown Los Angeles. A group of photographers quickly learned how ambiguous the line between private property and public space is. As they attempted to take pictures in front of the U.S. Bank Tower at 633 W. Fifth Street, and the adjacent Bunker Hill Steps, they were confronted by a phalanx of security guards that work for the 73-story tower, which is California's tallest building and is managed by Robert McGuire Properties.

The encounter, recorded in the video above, shows how guards try to magically extend the tower's property line out toward the curb of Fifth St. and threaten to call the police. One excuse given by guards from United Protective Services were concerns over terrorism, but here the photogs laugh this off as "playing the 9/11 card" because no one in the rest of the country has even heard of the U.S. Bank Tower. In fact, as the number of public surveillance systems increases while, at the same time, private property owners become increasingly concerned about liability in the form of lawsuits, "terrorism" has remained a reliable catchword to prevent public access or even the gathering of concentrated crowds in one place, lest they draw the attention of airline hijackers or suicide car bombers.

When interviewed last week, Citrano described a previous run-in he'd had with a San Antonio cop  for merely snapping pictures of a canal.

"That was verya  scary, encounter," Citrano said of the Texas cop. "He had a 9/11 chip on his shoulder. A lot of these restrictions [against shooting in public spaces] are painted under this brush of 9/11."

But the militarization of public spaces on Bunker Hill and adjacent areas was foreseen long before 9/11. Nearly 20 years ago Mike Davis, writing in City of Quartz, noted that "the defense of luxury lifestyles is translated into a proliferation of new repressions in space and movement, undergirded by the ubiquitous 'armed response.'"

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