Carlos Miller, the photographer and activist behind the "Photography is Not A Crime" blog, feels pretty damn strongly that there's nothing illegal about shooting photos or video on a taxpayer-funded Metrorail platform. He believes so strongly that he's already sued the County's security company over two previous incidents where they forced him to stop filming, took his camera, and roughed him up.
So you'd think 50 State Security might warn its officers not to tussle with Miller over his camera. But you'd be wrong. Yesterday, Miller was choked and dragged down an escalator by three guards -- all caught on camera by a friend -- again for the dubious "crime" of taking pictures.
"This was the last thing I wanted to do with a pending lawsuit, to go in and stir up more trouble," Miller tells Riptide this morning. "But I just don't have it in me to back down to these guys."
Miller's latest run-in with 50 State Security started last night after the photographer and a friend from Los Angeles had gone to Mike's Venetia for some pizza at the rooftop bar. The pair decided to take Metrorail back to Miller's home rather than pay for a cab.
As they waited for a train, they started snapping some pictures of the downtown Dade County courthouse.
"We'd been talking about the architecture, so we went to the end of the tracks where the view isn't obscured and took a few pictures," he says. "Then this voice comes on the loudspeaker saying, 'Stop taking those pictures.'"
Miller has already thoroughly explored the law behind shooting film at the Metrorail. In fact, he'd even gotten an email from the head of security for Miami-Dade transit stating that only commercial photography without a permit was forbidden. Any journalists, students, or amateur photogs can shoot away, the county code says.
But Miller had already run afoul of the county's security company on this issue several times before. When he tried to take a documentary film crew into a station to document his case against the company, a guard allegedly punched him and stole his camera.
So he knew what he was up against last night when another guard approached and demanded he stop filming. But Miller says he couldn't bring himself to walk away or put down the camera.
"I just have to educate these guys that there is nothing wrong with shooting film of the rails," he says.
The three guards on duty last night were in no mood for an educational session, though. After Miller repeatedly refused to stop filming and to leave the station, they ended up wrestling him down the escalator with one guard securing him in a choke hold.
"I was really surprised it went that far. It was scary," he says.
After police arrived, Miller and his friend were eventually released with $100 citations for disturbing the peace.
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Riptide left a message at 50 State Security's executive office seeking comment on Miller's latest run-in, but we haven't heard back yet. We'll update this post if we do.
Miller says he posted the video for the same reason he runs his blog -- to push for more awareness that photography in public is not criminal behavior. He did note one bright spot: A Miami-Dade police officer made a point of instructing the guards not to delete his footage.
"But this incident just shows how much work is left to do," he says. "The bigger issue at large is you give people a little control and some people just go overboard."