Bus Bench Blogger Arrested for Taking Pictures at Pershing Square

Picture Was Taken in 2005, Before the L.A.S.D Decided Taking Pictures in a Public Space Was Illegal

Think you had a bad week last week?  Unless you’re Panasonic Youth, you probably didn’t have as bad a week as Randall "Bus Tard" Fleming.  Fleming, one of the prolific writers at the Bus Bench was approached by an L.A. County Sheriff for taking pictures of the sheriff’s while shooting film at Pershing Square and detained.  His story, told on the Bus Bench, paints a chilling picture of civil rights violations that occured perpetrated by Peace Officers working under a contract from Metro.

Additionally, Fleming claims that when Fleming tried to explain that he was shooting film for his blog, and not part of a terrorist conspiracy, the officers told him that such an action was illegal and they would start policing other online publications for "illegal" pictures of transit stops.  It’s good to see that it’s not just Metro and Metrolink that were concerned about Keeping Us Safe from Terrorists.

As you might expect, at The Bus Bench, they’re less than thrilled with the treatment Randall received.  If you want to read more of his story, and see the video he captured, you can do so here, here, here, and here.

Photo: Rickie22/Flickr

  • Wow. I feel so much safer knowing that the one concerned citizen who documents the MTA’s failings is now safely being prosecuted for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

  • I’ve known the Bus Tard long from his bloggings and Randall the person since we met after he whooped my ass in a crosstown bus race challenge that pitted his Santa Monica Big Blue against the MTA 409 Line ending at Clifton’s.

    He’s a good guy who sports a mean fedora and while I’m sorry to see him get pinched, I’m glad he’s out there fighting the fight and know this won’t slow him down in the slightest.

  • Alek F

    I would be curious to see if such a law “prohibiting photography in subways” actually exists!! Does it?
    I highly doubt it…
    It seems that our Police is becoming like Nazis, and arrest ordinary citizens… It reminds me of KGB arrests in Soviet Union!

  • The Sheriffs are such bs. Weeks ago when they first noticed him filming they waved at him and he has that on video. We also have pictures of their do nothing comrades yucking it up at the 7th and Flower Coffee Bean, so if this how they act in an area with perceived terrorist threats I wonder how what they do when there isn’t one? Do they just sit at Krispy Kreme all day and exchange pictures of their kids? They make more than teachers and they get to shoot people, you think they would be a little bit more proactive and serious about protecting people than wasting their time harassing people they find annoying and NOT breaking the law.

    We have also noticed that they haven’t been at their terrorist risk post since BusTard’s arrest.

  • Two possible consequences from this whole thing:

    (1) the BusTard will now be strip searched every time he enters an airport because his name is on a list that grows by the thousand every day (with no way to get his name taken off of that list or to challenge his placement on that list in court)

    (2) his arrest for terrorist activities will go down in some statistical information about the LA Sherriffs financial needs to “combat terrorism”. This will (hopefully) lead to more Sheriffs with large caliber assault weapons and cool riot gear with pads as well as radios bought from the contractor who funded the right candidates political campaigns, and a bunch of retarded gizmos that will go unused in a warehouse (or warehouses) in L.A.

  • Damn. The Militant may have his differences with the ‘Tard, but he’s 100% on this side on this one. IF IT IS INDEED ILLEGAL, THEN BLATANTLY MENTION IT IN THE STATION SIGNAGE. There’s a sign in each station that tells people not to evade fares, smoke, eat, spit, play loud music, bring on gas-powered scooters, etc. That’s all fine and good, but there’s nothing on there mentions photos/video. If it really is illegal, then they should put it up. In the meantime, next time ‘Tard gets stopped for filming, he can just direct the officers to that sign and ask them to point out which item he has violated.

  • I suggest e-mailing Dan Finkelstein, Commander of the Metro Office of Homeland Security-Transit Services to express concerns about this incident and why some of his officers think photography in public places can be “illegal”: dfinkels@lasd.org

    Also maybe someone should attend the Metro Board Executive Management and Audit Committee meeting next Thursday. Item #25 is to approve a three-month extension to the Memorandum of Understanding with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) for policing while Metro continues negotiating a new contract with the LASD. That is an opening to give public comment on this item noting this treatment and that LASD should issue a directive to its officers that there are no such restrictions. Maybe that will help prevent this sort of injustice from being repeated.


    Also we urge members of the public e-mail Councilwomen Greuel about LADOT’s rule on photography–here is a page with details on this issue SO.CA.TA has been working on: http://socata.net/22.html

  • Wad

    Militant, most case law on public and noncommercial photography is on the side of BusTard. Metro could put up signs and whatnot saying photography and videotaping is illegal, but it could easily be fought and overturned in court.

    I had my own ridiculous photography incident in North San Diego County over the summer. One of the cops in Escondido said I am not allowed to take pictures of the Sprinter train — citing “national security.” I had already taken my pictures, and I did not argue the point with the cop. Yet the cop was clearly wrong. Why? I had also taken pictures in Oceanside without incident, except for one — a cop told me I could not step down into the roadway where the buses turn to get a better shot. I was never told to stop taking pictures, though.

    Here’s the best part: Oceanside has a legitimate national security risk. And I am not talking about the Sprinter, either. NCTD runs buses that the public can ride through Camp Pendleton. The bus stop signs even warn that MPs will search everybody at the gate before going on to the base. Taking photography in Oceanside, though, is cool.

  • Cheers, Dana. The reason I started documenting the behaviour of the deputies at Pershing Square seems to be the problem. Several deputies gather daily to hang out as well as use the pedestrian area to launch speed traps and pedestrian stings—when they are not loafing or using the toilet below. One of them got angry and lashed out in a way that is driving the figurative boot aimed at the sheriff’s arse. There is quite a bit I already have and hope to present when the public weighs in on the renewal of the LASD’s contract. I hope to help persuade Metro to give it back to the LAPD, an agency that has its faults but did far better when they oversaw the protection of MTA.

    That the two deputies, Larry Ware and Johnny Vo, have since gone out of their way to harass me when I enter Pershing Square, corroborates my claim that they are abusing the colour of their authority—in front of other deputies, at that.

    I will certainly pursue this avenue along with the attorneys to whom I have already talked and with which I am convening next week.


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