Eric Norcross, a documentary filmmaker, was filming buses in Manhattan when he was confronted by a group of Metropolitan Transportation Authority cops who accused him of terrorism.
The cops pulled up to him in a white SUV with lights flashing and hopped out the car. A uniformed cop and three plainclothes cops surrounded him as he stood on the side of the street with his camera.
This is how he described the incident that took place November 2.
The uniformed officer told me I was committing a “terrorist act” and that filming buses, subways and any MTA property would not only get me arrested, but would also put me on a terrorist watch list.
The cops ordered him to delete his footage. He refused, but opted to leave the area anyway without anymore filming, meaning they had screwed up his workday. He had been trying to finish the project he describes below.
I was shooting footage titled “New York Waking Up” that was going to be included in a short “fairy tale” film I had been working on over the last few months. My idea was to honor the city by portraying our most common modes of transportation, how New Yorkers get around.
So here we have a guy with a professional track record trying to honor the city and ends up getting threatened with arrest and being placed on a terrorist watch list.
Norcross was apparently unsure of his rights to continue filming, so he packed up his gear and walked off. But the incident kept eating away at him, so he called the MTA and discovered that it was nothing but a shakedown.
The filming of buses cannot be illegal, it just can’t be. Neither can the filming of trains. Especially filming from public property. When I called the MTA it was suggested that I could get permission to film for a fee. A fee. I suppose that’s what this is about: not security, not terrorism, but monetary compensation to the MTA. I thought this was about the threat of terrorism. Anyone?
No, it’s not about terrorism. It never was. It’s all about money. It always was.
Whether it is the billions we’ve spent on the sex-ray machines at the airport or the millions we’ve spent on clowns like these MTA cops who have nothing better to do than shakedown a filmmaker.
This is what is called security theater.