27 June 2007

Enclosing the Commons, 21st-Century Style

In an age where commons are rare and exotic beasts, "enclosing the commons" seems quaint rather than troubling. But in the modern context, this is what enclosure means:

Amateur photographer Chip Py was wandering around the newly developed downtown section of Silver Spring when he decided to snap a few pictures. He thought the building rooftops set against the blue sky made for a handsome image. A security guard promptly rushed out to tell him that he was not allowed to take pictures; the Peterson Companies, the developer of Ellsworth Street, prohibited it.

Welcome to the latest enclosure of the commons: privately controlled public streets. Even if streets may be nominally public, companies have few qualms about claiming them as private and bullying people into forfeiting their rights as citizens.


Bill Hooker said...

I suggest carrying a copy of something like this in your camera case (there's a US, UK and Aus version at that link). Other good ideas include your lawyer's phone number, if you have a lawyer, or the contact details for your local ACLU branch (or equivalent) if you don't, and a laundry list of things to do if you get arrested.

Glyn Moody said...


Wayan said...

If you've read the Baltimore Sun article, then you know that the Downtown Silver Spring developers have altered their policy to allow limited photographer access to Ellsworth Drive. That's great, but not what we're asking for.

Free Our Streets is asking for PFA Silver Spring LC to welcome photography, videography, and other filming on Ellsworth Drive, consistent with First Amendment rights as they would apply on any other public street.

The Downtown Silver Spring development includes $187 million in county and state funds and the once completely public property Ellsworth Drive, public investment that should come with public rights.

And so the Downtown Silver Spring Photo Walk is still on. A declaration of photographic freedom on July 4th.

Glyn Moody said...

Thanks for the update and useful links.

Good luck with your activities.