Gary Baumgarten, a radio journalist who interviewed me on his show last year, became the latest victim of police intimidation against photographers.
Baumgarten was taking the New Jersey Transit from Middletown on his way to New York City to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Wednesday.
It was just after 9:30 a.m. and the train was packed with rowdy teens who were drinking, smoking and pounding on the ceiling inside the car.
Some were already puking. Others were spilling beer. A couple of girls were peeing on the platform before boarding the train.
By the time the train got to Elizabeth, there was barely breathing space inside. And things were getting out of control.
So Baumgarten was relieved when he saw a group of New Jersey Transit cops running towards the train to begin ordering some of the teens off the train.
But when he pulled out a video camera, the cops turned on him.
This is how he explained it on his website:
A Sgt. Lee ordered some of the kids off the train to relieve the overcrowding. And I made the – apparently in his mind arrestable mistake – of videotaping him – a public figure at work.
He ordered me to turn the camera off or he’d arrest me for “obstruction.”
Interesting. These kids are tearing up the car and he threatens to arrest me.
What can you say? It’s New Jersey Transit, whose security guards go around telling people that taking pictures of snow in a parking lot is forbidden because it is private property owned by the state.
New Jersey Transit media spokeswoman Courtney Carroll has refused to respond to my request on what exactly is the official policy regarding photography in and around train stations.
Obviously, it is up to whomever is enforcing it at the moment.