Old 02-17-2006, 01:28 AM   #1
SD70MAC
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Default Another rail photographer victimized

Amtrak:
Another rail photographer victimized in security hysteria frenzy

Despite the recent commendable action by New Jersey Transit to back
off its effort to criminalize railway photography (see New Jersey:
Major victory in effort to resist criminalization of railway
photography), the "terrorism" hysteria engulfing the USA continues
to prompt transit and law-enforcement authorities to target and
harass innocent railway and transit photographers – the leading edge
of a national and even worldwide drive to criminalize
such "unauthorized" photography.

Virtually every segment of public transportation is being affected,
with examples continuing to come to our attention. One would think
that Amtrak's intercity rail passenger service – carrying a
relatively high proportion of photo-snapping tourists – would be
immune from the hysteria infection. But, alas, as the following
incident from last August (2005) suggests, such is not the case.
James Craig Bourgeois of Houston, Texas provides this description of
his (almost "worst-case-scenario") experience:

My biggest fear, in recounting what happened to me August 19, 2005
in New Orleans, is that people will have a very difficult time
believing me. I am sure some folks will be sure I am embellishing
the facts, exaggerating, or outright lying. None of this is the
case. Everything I state here happened as I say it.

I am a 60-year-old, recently retired pharmaceutical rep, with three
grown sons. I have a particular fondness for trains, and riding on
Amtrak. Friday morning, August 19, I departed Houston on the Sunset
Limited, bound for Pensacola, Florida for a short vacation. The
train had a layover of several hours in New Orleans, so I thought I
would kill some time taking photographs of the terminal and Amtrak
facilities. I had taken a lot of photographs along the way, and I
have started a photographic album intended to document the Sunset
Limited all the way across Louisiana. There is no way to know how
much longer Amtrak will run this train.

It is important to know that there are no signs on the platform
forbidding passengers from walking down the platform into the area
beyond where the lead engine would be, and no signs that prohibit
passengers from taking photographs. There are "No Trespassing" signs
on the gate to the Amtrak maintenance facility, on Earhart, but they
are not visible on the platform.

Two female Amtrak employees drove by and asked me what I was doing.
I said I was taking photographs, and that rail photography was a
hobby of mine. They admonished me to "watch out for the Amtrak
police." I did not take that warning seriously, because I was not
doing anything wrong. I joked that maybe "they would beat me up, so
I could file a multi-million dollar lawsuit." That, being an idea so
ridiculous, anyone would know it was meant in a humorous vein.

I walked a little further down where I encountered a young guy, who
was also an Amtrak employee. He inquired as to why I was
photographing the switcher, and I explained to him that I was just a
railfan, and I wanted photos of the Amtrak equipment. I asked if I
could walk further down the platform to take a couple more
photographs. He said he preferred I wait until he could get someone
to accompany me down there. I said "fine", and I waited.

By then the two female employees had returned and we were all
standing around talking and waiting for whoever was supposed to come
to see about my request. After a while an Amtrak policeman arrived.
I figured he would say I could, or I could not go further down the
platform.

When he got out of his car, I could see he was already in a highly
excited and agitated state. He was not in the mood to dialogue. He
explained I was trespassing on private property (remember, no
signs), and was not supposed to be taking photos. I was not about to
argue with him, or be the least bit confrontational, knowing the
reputation of New Orleans police, but this was an Amtrak policeman,
and I was an Amtrak passenger. I merely inquired if this was not
public property, since Amtrak is a publicly supported entity. At
that he told me to turn around, and he handcuffed me.

I naturally protested that I had done nothing wrong. But he was
determined to handle things the way he had, I believe, decided to
handle them before he ever showed up. He took me up to his office,
and contacted someone, who I assume was his superior. He gave the
person an embellished, and almost completely false account of what
happened. For instance, he stated I had said, "This is public
property, and I can be here if I want to be."

I begged the policeman not to take me off the train, but he
continued to repeat that I was "going to jail." I really got upset
at this point and insisted he let me talk to someone in the Amtrak
office. After asking him over and over to let me speak with someone,
he finally put an agent on the phone. I told the agent at the
terminal I had done nothing wrong, and to please come get me out of
this mess. The agent said he could not override the policeman, and
generally conveyed the attitude that he did not give a damn what my
predicament was.

The policeman ran my ID, and, of course, it came back that I had
never been arrested, and that I had no criminal record. He was
unfazed by that information, and instructed the agent to remove my
bag from the sleeper room I had occupied. In the stress of the
moment I forgot about my large hanging bag that was in the lower
level rack. It made it to Orlando, and I will get it back this week.

As we were driving out of the terminal area, on the way to the
Orleans Parish Prison, he pointed out the "No Trespassing" sign on
the chain link gate, which is not visible to any passenger on the
platform of the terminal. Upon arrival at the jail, I was processed
in, and at that point the Amtrak officer committed a gross violation
of procedure, by keeping my wallet, camera, and a pocket knife that
the jailer had taken out of my pocket. This was to have major
ramifications, later, when I finally had the opportunity to bail
myself out of the facility.

He had also erased certain photographs in my digital camera, while
up in his office, a violation of my civil liberties. While waiting
for him to show up I had photographed two A-10's that were flying
over. He wanted to know why I had photographed the A-10's. I
responded, "Because I'm a pilot." I do hold a private pilot's
license, but my response seemed to stun him slightly, and he moved
on.

The Orleans Parish Prison is one of the worst jails in the country.
The jailers there treat all inmates with contempt [and] disdain, and
do everything they can to make you feel there is no light at the end
of tunnel. My charge, incidentally, was criminal trespass.

You cannot bond out until you are "processed." For hours I watched
other inmates come and go, while my name was never called. Earlier,
in an odd difference in procedure, the watch captain said, "O.K.
Bourgeois, go to that window." I thought I had it made, but when I
got there, the first thing they wanted was a photo I.D. Too bad, it
was in my bag at the Amtrak police office. So, I had to be put
through a nationwide fingerprint search, which added more time to my
stay.

I went in the jail at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, slept (what little I
could) on the concrete jail floor, instead of the viewliner bed I
had on the Sunset Limited, and at four o'clock Saturday afternoon I
was still in jail. I could have been out at 11 a.m. of the same day,
but with no money, or debit card (remember, they were taken from
me) I could not bond out. So, along with about 60 other inmates, I
was put in the orange suit and moved to the big prison, with the big
cell block, just like you see in the movies.

By the grace of God I had done one thing right. I had managed to get
a phone book and write down the number of my cousin, who lives in
New Orleans. All phone calls out had to be collect, and you had to
have the number. I can remember exactly two phone numbers in my
head, one being [that of] my brother who lives in Lake Charles. I
was finally able to get in touch with my sister-in-law, and she made
numerous phone calls for me; most importantly to my friends in
Pensacola, who by now, were frantic. Not to mention my youngest son,
who lives here in Houston, who was sent into a tailspin. My cousin,
who had been gone when I first called, was home now, and around 6
p.m., she came down and paid my bond. In the manner of doing things
at the Orleans Parish Prison, I walked out of the jail at 12:30 a.m.
Sunday morning. I recovered my belongings the next day at the
terminal.

My vacation I had looked forward to was destroyed. My friends and
family had been traumatized, as [you only] can be when you cannot
account for the whereabouts of someone.

The lasting psychological effect of this is hard to predict. I have
been quite depressed since I came home. The overwhelming fact is, I
committed no crime. You cannot arrest someone for trespassing, when
there is not even a sign saying "no trespassing," and you cannot
arrest someone for taking photographs.

The entire amount of time that the officer spent with me on the
platform could not have been over one minute. What motivated him to
arrest me, when he could have easily said, "You cannot be here – go
back to the train," I cannot say. What really bothers me is he
obviously felt he could get away with this gross example of false
arrest, and deprivation of civil liberties.

Continued->>
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Old 02-17-2006, 01:30 AM   #2
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That points to something rotten in the system, itself. Combine that
with the total disregard of my welfare by the Amtrak agent, and
there is ample room for an investigation, and action to be taken.
The officer should be terminated, for sure, and following him out
the door should be the agent. The officer's superior who allowed him
to perpetrate this outrage, should also have to answer.

There is no stone I will leave unturned to get justice for this. As
I sat in jail my most consistent thought, after "I have to get out
of here," was "I have to make this count for something." This should
never happen to anyone, again.
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Old 02-17-2006, 01:43 AM   #3
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Angry Why, why, why...

God darnet, this just makes me so mad as why people who work for the railroad should get so cruel to us railfans! I just don't get it! Is there anything we [railfans united] can do about this?
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Old 02-17-2006, 01:49 AM   #4
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Very interesting. I have taken photos of Amtrak trains for over a year and the only reactions I ever get are a wave or a one fingered wave from the crew. Guess folks are railfanning in the wrong places.
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Old 02-17-2006, 01:57 AM   #5
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Excellent PR Amtrak has going on there. As if their image isn't bad enough already. They could always tout it as the "Ultimate Rail Travel Experience." That's right...Ride Amtrak. See the country. Arrive late. Get arrested. Derail. I think we have a winner!
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Old 02-17-2006, 01:59 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmherndon
Excellent PR Amtrak has going on there. As if their image isn't bad enough already. They could always tout it as the "Ultimate Rail Travel Experience." That's right...Ride Amtrak. See the country. Arrive late. Get arrested. Derail. I think we have a winner!
hehehhehe....Id rather get the bird than get arrested anyday! I think folks cross lines when this type of story surfaces.
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Old 02-17-2006, 12:45 PM   #7
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I think from now on i´ll just ride freights around the country. No rude people to deal with, better food to be found in trackside dumpsters, probably faster and more comfortable, and about the same chance of getting arrested...
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Old 02-17-2006, 03:50 PM   #8
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Quote:
My biggest fear, in recounting what happened to me August 19, 2005
in New Orleans, is that people will have a very difficult time
believing me. I am sure some folks will be sure I am embellishing
the facts, exaggerating, or outright lying. None of this is the
case.
Is it just me or does this sound similar to:

Quote:
Dear Penthouse,
I never thought it could happen to me, but...
I'm sorry, but I don't believe this guy's story. This looks like an attention-grab and nothing more...
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Old 02-17-2006, 04:05 PM   #9
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im really donot know what i can say about these situations that happened to the railfans.afriend of me working as adriver assistant told me that how any country arrest someone that take pix of something avaliable for all of the people in the country?how can they say no photographing of trains and trains runs everywhere in the countries and people see it all the time.
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Old 02-17-2006, 04:52 PM   #10
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I have read this somewhere in the last few months. Is this from a blog? A book? Oprah's Book of the Month selection?

ADD:Puts to shame their attempt at a calendar

Quote:
Originally Posted by AMTRAK website
SAFETY FIRST!

Amtrak reminds the public and especially those who may photograph a train to stay out of danger. It is very important to stay away from tracks, moving trains, yards, railroad structures (such as bridges, trestles, towers and wires) and the railroad right-of-way. Photographers must not trespass on railroad property or on private property adjacent to the railroad. Instead, stay in public access areas, such as stations, sidewalks or parking lots. All participants agree to assume the risk of harm and release Amtrak from all liability for personal injury and loss of property. Photographers are reminded that railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property and that trespassers are subject to arrest and fines. Some stations served by Amtrak trains require advance permission for photography. Always obey all local rules and laws.
Emphasis added by me.

It isn't in the story, but what was the fine? Per LA state law:

Quote:
Originally Posted by State of Louisiana
http://www.legis.state.la.us/lss/lss.asp?doc=78584

4. CRIMINAL TRESPASS

§63. Criminal trespass...

C. No person shall remain in or upon property, movable or immovable, owned by another without express, legal, or implied authorization.
Wouldn't a ticket on that train be express if not implied authorization?
Quote:
Originally Posted by CON'T
G. The following penalties shall be imposed for a violation of this Section:

(1) For the first offense, the fine shall be not less than one hundred dollars and not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or both.
He must have been a real bugger to be tossed in the klink. I think this would really have been a tag and release situation.
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Old 02-17-2006, 06:00 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ween

I'm sorry, but I don't believe this guy's story. This looks like an attention-grab and nothing more...
I know you can't believe everything you read on the internet, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is in fact a true story. I've been handcuffed and interrogated for standing on a public sidewalk with a camera. In a separate incident an FBI agent showed up at my house to question me about why I was taking pictures (again from a public location).
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Old 02-17-2006, 06:17 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ween
Is it just me or does this sound similar to:



I'm sorry, but I don't believe this guy's story. This looks like an attention-grab and nothing more...
I am with you on this one Ween.
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Old 02-18-2006, 01:13 PM   #13
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I've always had great luck with cops, and RR cops in particular. I haven't had a situation yet, I don't think, that didn't end with name exchanges, hand shakes, and friendly smiles. A professional, cooperative, positive attitude goes a LONG way when dealing with such incidents.

That being said, two things jump out at me about this situation:

1) The photographer made some kind of comment about Amtrak being publicly owned, and him being on public property. His version and the cop's version differ, but he obviously made some kind of comment about his right to be there. That's never a good idea. Whether you're right or not, it comes off sounding defiant to a cop, and puts them on the defensive. Things don't get better from there.

2) He was in New Orleans. I have lots of experience with authorities in New Orleans. They can be very, very rude. They can also be very tolerant. Instant cooperation is a key factor in how a situation develops there. If he came off as arrogant to a New Orleans cop and/or RR cop, I can see the situation playing out exactly as he described.

So basically, I see it as probably being the photographer's fault (obviously I can't know for sure what went on). He agrees he made some sort of comment about his right to be there. From my experience with cops, and New Orleans cops in particular, that was a bad move. It's confrontational, and sets the tone for the whole encounter to go sour.
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Old 02-18-2006, 03:05 PM   #14
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Bret I agree with you as well. I have some formal training in law enforcement and a cooperative attitude goes a LONG WAY. Folks need to remember that the police are only doing their jobs and rail security is an issue in the US. Photographers must abide by all rules and regulations. Most cops have hobbies just like we do and all the cops I have seen respect the hobby.
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Old 02-18-2006, 04:27 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fuente1
Folks need to remember that the police are only doing their jobs and rail security is an issue in the US.
Why is it an issue? I would think that airplane security would be way higher on the list, and has the US had any terriorist type rail accidents?
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Old 02-18-2006, 04:58 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fuente1
Folks need to remember that the police are only doing their jobs and rail security is an issue in the US.
That they do. I was actually questioned back in September while shooting the CSX around Corbin. This was due to the fact that my friend and I were in an area that was well known for drug deals (we were unaware of that at the time). However, we cooperated with the officers and everything went smoothly. I think the problem is that people freak out anytime the law is involved.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bnsf sammy
Why is it an issue? I would think that airplane security would be way higher on the list, and has the US had any terriorist type rail accidents?
There was that Amtrak derailment in Arizona about 10 years ago, but I'm not really sure what became of that. However, railroads are targets for terrorist activity due to their importance in commerce and the large amount of hazmat that's being transported via rail. There's not been a large scale terrorist related derailment in the US, and I'm sure all of us would like to keep it that way.

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Old 02-18-2006, 05:05 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmherndon
There was that Amtrak derailment in Arizona about 10 years ago, but I'm not really sure what became of that. However, railroads are targets for terrorist activity due to their importance in commerce and the large amount of hazmat that's being transported via rail. There's not been a large scale terrorist related derailment in the US, and I'm sure all of us would like to keep it that way.
While Amtrak has human cargo, the main concern is hazmat shipments. The number of hazmat shipments via rail on a daily basis is staggering. Sure air is tightly watched, but rail is alot more accessible and carries far more hazmats than air. Next time you see a train go by look at the placards on the tank cars and you will see what I am talking about. Anyone recall the CSX hazmat accident in Baltimore a few years ago? The Amtrak derailment in Arizona if I remember correctly was caused by teenagers sabotaging a switch, while bad, imagine the mess had it been a tank train.
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Old 02-18-2006, 05:40 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmherndon
However, railroads are targets for terrorist activity due to their importance in commerce and the large amount of hazmat that's being transported via rail. There's not been a large scale terrorist related derailment in the US, and I'm sure all of us would like to keep it that way.
i agree with you caleb also i wann to add that the railroads are atarget all over the world and i consider it the backbone of the economy of any country.
and also we shouldnot forget the explosions that happened in the trains of MADRID in SPAIN. i hope that nothing like this happen again.
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Old 02-19-2006, 03:42 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bnsf sammy
Why is it an issue? I would think that airplane security would be way higher on the list, and has the US had any terriorist type rail accidents?
Are you serious?!?!? Have you forgotten about the Spain and London train bombings that occured over the past year? It doesn't matter that it hasn't happened in the US; trains are a soft (read: easy) target.
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Old 02-19-2006, 04:20 AM   #20
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Ween, I was specifically referring to US related passenger trains, however you make a good point regarding trains are an easy target, especially freights when they are carrying all that hazmat.
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Old 02-19-2006, 05:08 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ween
Are you serious?!?!? Have you forgotten about the Spain and London train bombings that occured over the past year? It doesn't matter that it hasn't happened in the US; trains are a soft (read: easy) target.

Amtrak is a worry, but Im more concerned with the large amaount of hazmats on board trains today. They make a real easy target and can do a heck of a lot of damage.
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Old 02-19-2006, 05:06 PM   #22
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Not really. Contrary to popular belief, rail is by far the safest way to transport dangerous chemicals.
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Old 02-19-2006, 08:13 PM   #23
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I am with agreeance on this subject matter with most people. I think that this story is a fake, just something to get us all ri'led up about. I really dont care even if it is a real story anyways. But to me it seems weird that they took the guy to a prison, not just a police station or even the amtrak office. They made the guy suit up in the orange suit as well. That only happens after a trail.

That in it self says a fake. Plus Amtrak personnal are usually used to handling these kind of people. Thats why many people take Amtrak not becuase of the transportation but because of the expeiriance and the trains.

Also, why didnt the other employees say something, not stick up for the guy but mabey say something like, "he only wanted a picture".

Whatever, at first when i read this i was pissed but after i gave it some thought i figured it was a fake story.

All the cops and security i have ever ran into just was wondering what i was up to. A soon as they looked at my car and saw all the train stuff they figured i was legit. I have only been kicked off the railroad once out of 10 different confintations in 5 years. I hope i dont have any like this.

I try and educate the police about our hobby, rather then just argue or look stupid. I pull out the magizines and show them what we do. Plus it helps to have a huge lens!
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Old 02-19-2006, 10:10 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Frederick
Not really. Contrary to popular belief, rail is by far the safest way to transport dangerous chemicals.
I agree it is as well, however, it has the potential to be diasterous. Think about it like this.....is a terrorist going to try to target a truck on the interstate, where one load is present, or target a train with an endless supply of loads on it? You do the math.
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Last edited by fuente1; 02-19-2006 at 10:19 PM.
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Old 02-22-2006, 03:31 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Pat Lorenz
IThey made the guy suit up in the orange suit as well. That only happens after a trail.
Don't ask me how I kow this. But let's say I have it on good authority that in at least some states, once you get arrested and booked, you don the orange jumpsuit and get tossed behind bars.


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