Security Guard Claims it's Against the Law to Video Record Refinery from Public Park

Activists protesting in a public park outside an oil refinery in Texas were told by a private security guard that it was illegal to point their cameras in the direction of the refinery.

The security guard first told them it was Valero’s law, referring to the private refinery based in Manchester, a neighborhood in Houston.

But when pressed further, he said it was both a state and federal law.

It’s obvious he didn’t know what he was talking about, but that has never stopped a man with a badge before.

The activists, known as the Tar Sands Blockade, are protesting against the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, which stretches from Canada to Texas.

This is how they described the incident in the Youtube description:

On Thursday, November 14th when filming near the Valero refinery in Manchester TSB organizers were stopped and approached by two officers of the notoriously violent and corrupt Houston Police Department. E.T. Ramirez, badge number 8407 and D. Jimenez, badge number 8105, claimed that it was against the law to film near Valero, but when questioned about which law that was, neither officer could name it. Upon further questioning one officer simply stated, “9/11.”

The police continually harassed the organizers demanding that they produce ID’s. One of the organizers refused to cooperate, to which an officer replied, “If you’re not doing anything wrong and you don’t have any warrants or anything then you shouldn’t have any problem giving me your ID.”

This is emblematic of the repression directed at anyone that attempts to speak out against the corporations that are systematically poisoning their neighbors. Valero, their private security, and the Houston Police Department sends a clear message to the community: if you question Valero, they’ll question you.

After continued resistance to their requests to produce identification the police retreated to their vehicle for a few minutes before coming back to let the TSB crew know they could leave, but not before asking one last time if they were “sure” they didn’t want to show them some ID…

Later that same day the crew was interviewing a Manchester resident who lives right next to the Valero refinery and who wanted to raise her voice and speak up about Valero’s egregious practices. While filming the interview in a public park –the only park in Manchester– and not five minutes into the process Valero’s private security approached the scene. The security guard, much like the police, proved once again that Valero will do everything in its power to silence anyone attempting to expose the injustice and abuse it perpetrates daily.

This video documents these interactions with Valero security, which would be comical if it weren’t so tragic for the residents who have to deal with this type of police harassment on a daily basis.


About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

Check Also

William Robocop Melendez convicted

Award-Winning Michigan Officer Known as “Robocop” Receives 13-Month Sentence for Vicious Beating Caught on Camera

The Michigan cop known as Robocop will spend at least 13 months in prison for …

  • james

    ah, the infamous 9-11 law. of course, 9-11 made everything illegal.

    • Difdi

      I prefer the 7-11 law. Slurpees are tasty.

    • Saul B

      We need a 9/11 version of Godwin’s Law.

  • Gordon Freeman

    Funny, I usually say that because of 9/11 I can’t turn the camera off. After all, I might catch, inadvertently, the next ‘first airplane’ like the film crew on 9/11 did. (OK I don’t actually use if, but I think it’s just as valid) Because of 9/11, officer, I HAVE to film everything, otherwise the terrorists win.

  • Tijuana Joe

    Wow, the refinery has its OWN laws that supersede the 1st Amendment???
    Holy Shit, this really IS a Corporatocracy we live in. Those Occupiers weren’t kidding.

    • Anonymouse Bastard

      The U.S. Constitution supersedes all law except itself, and then only by amendment.

      Thus, any law in violation or contridiction of the U.S. Constitution is not a valid law.

      What amazes me is that this happens in Texas, which outwardly considers itself a state filled with gun-toting freedom lovers.

      • C.L. Utah

        “a state filled with gun-toting freedom lovers.”

        You’re not even allowed to open-carry a handgun in Texas, that says enough about the supposed freedom everyone thinks Texas has.

      • Difdi

        Actually that view of Texas is only held by people who don’t live in Texas. Texas is actually one of the more restrictive states when it comes to 2nd amendment rights.

  • notliberal

    Hilarious. He’s a private citizen. He has ZERO authority and cannot even enforce actual laws. Why even talk to him or deal with him? Ignore him and go about your way/protest.

  • CruisingTroll

    Actually, the security guard may be correct in this, although he’s clearly confused as to the law in question.
    Refineries MAY be protected from surveillance under the Patriot Act, as an attack on a refinery would be double plus ungood. Note, I’m not saying they ARE so protected, nor that they should be, simply that they MAY be.
    That aside, the activists are idiots.

    • Difdi

      Have you ever heard the phrase “Congress shall make no law”?

      If Congress cannot make a law, and only Congress has authority to make laws, then how can there be a law at all?

      • KenBankers

        Try using it in its full context. Otherwise people might get confused.

        Amendment I

        shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
        prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
        speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
        assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

        • Difdi

          My point was apparently only obscure to you. Reread what I wrote, you just apparently agreed with me in an adversarial tone.

          • KenBankers

            adversarial tone. I was agreeing with you yes however my son who is 10 years old and loves this blog was confused. So i just wanted to make sure that EVERYONE who read that was clear on your meaning. LOL i am sorry if you dont understand that some people dont understand half of an idea.

          • Difdi

            I tend to assume in my posts that people are not stupid or ignorant until they prove otherwise. Assuming the opposite and writing accordingly is what is known as ‘picking a fight’.

  • Unspecific

    I do not think the Patriot Act has anything about filming refineries. I am not sure it has any provisions on what the public can record, at least not that I remember. There are laws regarding filming nuclear power facilities, but as far as I know there is nothing about company refineries anywhere. Also readers, keep in mind it is not illegal to refuse to show ID in Texas until you have been charged with a crime, other states differ. Failure to identify is not a crime on the books here.

  • rick

    You can video record anything in public if you have a legal right to be there. Period.
    Be prepared to be hassled if a nuclear facility or refinery is on the horizon.

  • steveo

    I starting to think that the best way to deal with this abuse of authority is to start flooding the FBI with complaints about leos and security guards acting under the color of state law with violations of civil rights and copy the Office of Civil Rights in the DOJ under the DOJ guidelines in the Sharp v Baltimore case. If they get enough of these this crap is going to stop.

    Also when making a complaint to the FBI, which you can do online, this is called a “color of law” complaint, copy it, send it to as many media outlets as you can and produce another vid explaining your complaint and then letting viewers know that updates will follow.

    • Difdi

      Here’s an interesting thought for you: A lot of state citizen’s arrest laws don’t specify that the arrest must only be for a violation of state law. If a police officer attempts to violate your rights (which could be as simple as an oral discouragement) and his partner backs him up on it, both officers have committed a crime under 18USC241, which is punishable by 10 years in prison.

      That’s a felony by any standard, and just about every state that allows a citizen’s arrest allows it for felonies.

      • ExCop-Lawyer

        Except for the fact that it is a Federal offense, and there is no citizen’s arrest for Federal crimes…

        Citizen’s arrest in Texas is limited to State felonies & breach of the public peace that are committed within the presence or view of the citizen.

        • Difdi

          Are you sure that your blanket statement also applies to the other 49 states?

          I qualified my statement. You didn’t.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            The primary statement is that there is no citizen’s arrest for Federal crimes. It doesn’t matter what state you are in, a citizen (or a state officer, for that matter), cannot make an arrest for a Federal crime. Arrests for Federal violations are statutory, see generally 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3041 et seq. for specific information.

            I suppose that there could be an exception to the rule, but I’m not inclined to dig through case law to find it. In any event, such an exception would be fact or offense specific, and would not be an exception for an entire state or states.

            What typically happens is a state peace officer will make an arrest for a state crime, for example possession of cocaine. This also happens to be a federal offense, and the US Attorney’s office may decide to prosecute in a US District Court, but the state officer did not make an arrest on a federal crime. What normally happens is that a federal warrant will issue and the offender will then be held based on that authority.

            The Texas comment was just an example of one state’s process, but no, the other 49 states cannot authorize a citizen to make an arrest for a Federal crime either. A state cannot legislate arrest authority for the federal government, nor is a state’s common law binding on the federal government.

          • Difdi

            I don’t think you cited the right law. Section 3042 discusses the duties and authority of judges. It says nothing about citizen’s arrest. If 3042 governed arrest powers as written, it would prevent an FBI agent from making an arrest, because an FBI agent is not a judge. If an FBI agent were a judge for purposes of 3042 it would grant that agent the authority to set bail and/or order the release of arrested suspects.
            I’ve read the laws governing arrests (both by peace officer and citizens) in Texas. I haven’t read through case law on the subject, but the statute itself (14.01) doesn’t say what you say it does.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            Please note that I cited a series of sections, beginning with 3041. That’s what the “et seq.” means, which is Latin for “and following.” Sec. 3041 does discuss judges and magistrates, and the following sections discuss other issues with arrest for Federal criminal violations. For example, Sec. 3053 grants US Marshals and their deputies arrest powers for Federal crimes. Sec. 3063 grants EPA agents arrest powers, etc.

            Sec. 3042, which you mention, actually talks about extraterritorial jurisdiction, so I assume that it was a typo on your part.

            In any event, there is no section that grants citizen arrest powers in the US Code.

            As for the Texas statute on arrest, it says exactly what I said it did. It is contained in Art. 14.01(a), Tex. Code of Crim. P., which states:

            “A peace officer or any other person, may, without a warrant, arrest an offender when the offense is committed in his presence or within his view, if the offense is one classed as a felony or as an offense againstthe public peace.”

            The phrase “any other person” means a private citizen. See McGuire v. State, 847 S.W.2d 684 (Tex. App. – Houston 1st Dist. 1993). A citizen may arrest for any felony or breach of the peace that is committed within his presence or view. “Offense against the public peace” means breach of the peace. See Wood v. State, 213 S.W.2d 685 (Tex. Crim. App. 1948); Kunkel v. State, 46 S.W.3d 328 (Tex. App. – Houston 14th Dist. 2003).

            Again, note that authority to arrest for federal offenses can only be determined by the federal government, not the state government.

            Let me know if further explanation is needed, I’ll be more than happy to help.

          • Difdi

            Does the U.S. Code specifically deny the power of citizen’s arrest to citizens? Is there any section that specifically says only federal agents may make arrests for federal laws? If not, I direct you to the 9th amendment and the fact that U.S. law operates on the principle (originating in British common law) that anything not forbidden is legal.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            It doesn’t have to specifically deny it, once a statute has been enacted, it basically controls. I’m afraid that your understanding of the Ninth Amendment and the way common law works are not correct either.

            I’m not going to argue this any further, but if you want to test the system, be prepared for years of fighting it out in court, and the possibility of losing your argument and your freedom in the process.

  • steveo

    It’s also amazing to me that 40 or 50 years after the civil rights demonstrations of 50’s and 60’s and the anti-war demonstrations of the Vietnam War era, we’ve suddenly morphed into the 9/11 era where no public demonstrations or lawfull peacefull protest assemblies are permitted because of “terrorism”. I remember when the FBI called Martin L. King a terrorist, and all the war protesters terrorists and leos tried to squelch the protests then but now we have ubiquitous use of CAMERAS, so go ahead and proceed with your squelching because it’s not going to work.

    • Difdi

      Terrorist is the only profession where you can miss your target 100% of the time and achieve 100% success. The targets of a terrorist are not the people he kills, they’re just collateral damage. The targets of terrorism are the people who weren’t killed, but are now so terrified of being killed that they rush to give the terrorist everything he wants out of fear they’ll be killed next.

      The terrorists of 9/11 hated our freedoms and our honor. To beat them, we only had to remain true to our core principles. Instead, we’ve thrown our honor and freedom away in the name of security, thereby giving the terrorists what they were willing to die to attain.

      We killed bin Laden? So what? He was willing to die to win. And he did. He won and we lost.

  • John Kruzelock

    Tar Sands Blockade can pound sand, The stupid guard is a typical idiot..

  • Jeff

    Good Lord, that idiot could hardly spell the word Consitiution let aloan be able to read and understand what’s in it. He’s obviously clueless. Yet another minimum wage (often retired) security guard with barely an IQ above room temparature, attenpting to make things up as he goes along. I would not even waste my time on this one. Why is it if you put a huge idiot in a uniform and badge people bow down to and listen to him? If this same goof walked up in plain cloths and did the same things, everyone would ignore him. The badge and uniform of a private security goof mean nothing – unless of course you are on the property he legally has athority in and on.

    • Difdi

      Why is it that spelling rants always contain misspellings? ‘Alone’ not ‘aloan’, ‘temperature’ not ‘temparature’, ‘attempting’ not ‘attenpting’, ‘clothes’ not ‘cloths’ and ‘authority’ not ‘athority’.

  • discarted

    Here is Valero’s Facebook response to my criticism of their guards harassing photographers in public space. These people really do believe they can make up the law up as they go. I doubt they will ever learn, but it seems like a flash mob is necessary to teach these folks about our rights to take pictures of anything in public space.

    • Clark

      If there’s more posted, please let us know!

    • Difdi

      Spelling counts. When you spell as poorly as you did on that wall post, you discredit your arguments. Since you’re trying to convince people of something, you need to make sure you haven’t made any errors.

  • rick

    Go and find the full text of the Patriot Act and do a word search for “photo, photography, video, record, recording, digital, image….etc” and see what turns up.

    Absolutely nothing regarding public video or photos of ‘critical infrastructure’.

    Better luck next time Valero!

  • IO_IO

    In terms of Valero Energy’s Facebook response, there is no specific law and they did not cite one either. Parse their response carefully. Extract from their response and Google the phrase “designated as critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security” and you will get this link….

    Its a Homeland Security Department “Directive”, no law but a regulation. I am guessing that the law establishing the Homeland Security Department gave them directions to establish and promulgate operating Directives, Policies and Regulations, as that is usually the case.

    “The Homeland Security Act of 2002 provides the primary authority for the overall homeland security mission. This act charged the Department of Homeland Security with primary responsibility for developing a comprehensive national plan to secure critical infrastructure and recommend “the measures necessary to protect the key resources and critical infrastructure of the United States.” This comprehensive plan is the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP),
    published by the Department in June 2006. The NIPP provides the unifying structure that integrates a wide range of protective security efforts into a single national program.”

    So, it appears that what is at stake here is how the Directives, Policies and Regulations are implemented, executed and enforced in terms of the infringement of a citizen’s Constitutional Rights. If you go back in time, Carlos had some posts about folks being stopped in Long Beach, Calif, and some place down in Texas, where Police were called and ID was demanded of the photographers who were taking pictures of Refineries. I would believe that this is where the rub comes in to play. They are going to declare that on the basis of this Homeland Security Department Directive, that there is probable cause to detain, and thus force the production of ID.

    That covers the production of ID. That leaves the question of photography. I am guessing (note the word “guess”), that the photography is not illegal nor prohibited, especially from public property (it can’t be, unless its a posted military or sensitive installation). The aspect of a “sensitive installation” is interesting here. I think it needs to be posted as such. Does Google Street view show refineries? However, the Police are not parsing the directives to any extent. They are just taking the Homeland Security Department Directives, and assuming a blanket no photography restriction (as in “sensitive installation”) – which I would think is way too broad and essentially wrong. It would be an interesting court challenge – probably would make its way up to the Supreme Court. The question is – would they actually hear it?

    Note – Not a Lawyer here, just reading and interpreting what I find.

    PS – Here is an interesting read…

    Scroll down to § 29.8 Disclosure of Protected Critical Infrastructure Information.
    and read a(2) which consists of …
    “(2) Any information that is proprietary, business sensitive, relates specifically to the submitting person or entity, and is not customarily in the public domain. ”

    I would think that if you can see it from a public place then its not protected information – i..e. protected critical infrastructure information is NOT CUSTOMARILY IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. Their escape clause is the word “customarily”. Not a word anywhere about photos or photography. It is all left up to the discretion and interpretation of the police officer present at the time.

    • Difdi

      A regulation trumps a policy. A statute trumps a policy and a regulation. The constitution trumps them all.

    • Fotaugrafee

      As a matter of fact, this has already been challenged in court AND the involved party was Valero Energy!!!!

      A photographer, Bruce Barry, seeking to photograph the common-carrier railroad operations near the then-Valero (now PBF Energy) refinery at Paulsboro, New Jersey was acquitted after going head-to-head with local authorities (Greenwich Township, NJ police, if my memory serves me correctly). They charged him with obstruction of justice for failure to forfeit his digital media, as well as one other charge which escapes me. One charge was dropped by the judge entirely, b/c he is aware of no such law existing to prevent photography at/near the Valero site. Valero at most refineries has signs around the perimeter citing “no photography or videography of these premises”, however such signs hold no legal value. This happened in 2004 or 2005.,1009149

      • IO_IO

        Thanks for the link. Its helpful to know and understand where the city, county, police, sheriff, etc. come up with these “laws”. Breaking the law is one thing, however a directive, regulation, process, etc., are not laws. We all have Constitutional rights which as observed before trumps all of them, however they need to be known, understood and exercised.

  • BBob

    Okay, with respect. The police wern’t trying to move the people or stop them from protesting (intimidating, yes). And the private security guard was most likely a guy who walks around a building doing nothing of interest, he’s not a trained officer or lawyer or knowledgable of legal issues. Most likely he just got told to go tell the protestors to move. Of course he has no authority there and I don’t think they moved (the description is quite empty of hard details of any actual abuse further than just being intimidating and asking legal questions)

  • JeromeMac

    Go to their contact link on Valero and ask them questions about these incidents, I did.

  • Andrew

    this is what i posted on the face book page – second post………. lol

    Wide Shut Photography You
    have brought disgrace upon yourself, The United States of America, The
    Constitution, and all who stand or have died for FREEDOM. The very same
    freedom for witch you are denying, and to top if it of you use 9/11 as
    an excuse?
    2 minutes ago · Like
    Wide Shut Photography I also find it ironic you have a photo of a refinery on this facebook page………………….

  • Fotaugrafee

    Another ‘tard security guard. Someone at Wackenhut or whatever dimwit low-wage contractor who employs these people should have classes on exactly WHAT is federal & state law.

    See my Flickr page regarding “Defiant Eyes”, I get off on this kind of photography, sometimes HOPING to draw attention:

  • Fotaugrafee

    And for what it’s worth, I have no connection to the actiivist’s in question, other than their right to photograph or video from public property.

    I’m not an enviro-hippie or tree-hugger, and I’m sure there could be pollution or air quality issues revolving around this debate, rather my fight is against these authorities (both public & private) who seem to honestly believe that this is a crime, and that guilt tripping citizens into providing ID’s so they can added to some kind of “terrorist” database is plain wrong.

  • Laken Blacken

    @c770dc248b6dcaecb4cfe33fb11cac56:disqus That’s genious material. I’m gonna start using it.

  • Fotaugrafee

    I was just given a rash of holy hell on Thanksgiving morning (2013) after shooting photos of a Dow Chemical plant from a PUBLIC street in Pasadena, TX.

    I think the offending security guard is going to find himself without a job after I get the time (and know-how) to post that footage.

  • Fotaugrafee

    Uhhh, I think they were talking to him to expose the man’s ignorance of the laws. That is kind of obvious with her line of questioning. The people making this video are not stupid, it sounds like they’re VERY aware of the laws revolving around photographing chemical refineries.

  • Fotaugrafee

    Uhhh, no, they’re not. See Bruce Barry’s case against Greenwich Twp (NJ) back in 2005, where he was photographing a rail operation outside of a Valero refinery in Paulsboro, NJ as a start.