Fort Lauderdale has a lawsuit on its hands after letting a movie production company put up bogus no-trespassing signs, which attempted to prohibit photography by citing a random city ordinance.
The Hollywood film Rock of Ages is being filmed around the Himmarshee Village area. Several journalists and photographers were told they're not allowed to take pictures there, despite the presence of many bars, eateries, and open sidewalks nearby.
Attorney (and South Florida Gay News publisher) Norm Kent has filed a civil suit against the city and Police Chief Frank Adderly, whose police officers have been helping to enforce the photography ban.
"The police have become unwitting agents of unconstitutionality," wrote Kent in a news release. "Freedom of expression, which includes photography, cannot be controlled by movie studios from Hollywood, even if Tom Cruise is in the film." See below for the full complaint. An excerpt:
The 'No Trespassing' signs which have been posted at the entrances to three city blocks and which law enforcement officers are enforcing contain a misrepresentation of state and local law, and present a false statement of law to the general public as well as members of the media, and operate to chill and deny First Amendment protections guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States of America.
Miami photography-rights activist Carlos Miller has been documenting the bogus ban on his blog, Photography Is Not a Crime. He says the city is too ready to kowtow to local film productions.
"They're so happy to be getting big Hollywood films shooting in Fort Lauderdale rather than Miami," he says. "In Miami, they would know what they can and cannot [enforce]."
Miller is organizing a "lunch-in" for this Friday: he's encouraging people to stop by SW Second Street at 1 p.m. to buy lunch in a local establishment -- "carrying and clicking their SLRs and smartphone cameras," according to the news release.
Michael Koretzky is helping to organize the "lunch-in," and he's president of the South Florida Society of Professional Journalists, a co-plaintiff in the suit.
"We're going to buy lots of food and take lots of pictures," says Koretzky. "Of each other, of police, of buildings, of everything. We plan to be well-fed criminals."
That's a good point: Regardless of whether the ban is unconstitutional, Fort Lauderdale cops have chosen to enforce it and may be making arrests.
Miller is willing to stand up to the police: "If they try to arrest us, fine. I'll be sticking a camera in their face interviewing them."
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