July 4th First Amendment Rights March in Silver Spring, Maryland
Over one hundred people marched today, July 4th, in support of first amendment rights in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland.
The demonstration was prompted by a ban on photography in a quasi-public, quasi-private street, Ellsworth Drive.
The Montgomery County, Maryland government leased Ellsworth Drive in Silver Spring for a dollar a year to a developer, the Peterson Company, giving that company the right to provide security and amenities to Ellsworth Drive, a formerly public street that runs through the heart of Silver Spring. The Peterson Company called Ellsworth Drive "private property" and prohibited photography.
Today's demonstration was a response to an incident that happened to Washington, DC area photographer Chip Py, who was told by a security guard that photography was barred on Ellsworth Drive. Chip Py and another area photographer, Kate Mereand, founded the Flickr Group, DC Photo Rights in response to this and other frequent incidents in the Washington, DC area: People, including professional photographers and tourists have been told by security guards that they can't take photographs, when, in fact, there are no laws barring photography.
The demonstration was organized by Chip Py, Kate Mereand, Wayan Vota, Washington, DC area photographers, bloggers and the newly formed group, Free Our Streets. People from as far away as New York participated.
To help diffuse the situation, a few days before the July 4th march, the Peterson Company said that it would allow people to take photos in Downtown Silver Spring, but that it could remove this privilege at its discretion.
The Montgomery County Council passed a resolution in which they "abandoned" Ellsworth Drive. Can a county or city government give away people's First Amendment, and other rights, by ceding public property to a private company? Today's demonstration was about that question, and about educating people about their Constitutional rights.
Click here for previous reporting on the ban on photography in downtown Silver Spring.