The 11-floor headquarters of the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington D.C. costs taxpayers more than $58 million in rent every year but federal security guards are not allowing citizens to photograph or record the building “out of courtesy” for them.
But what about respect for the First Amendment that allows citizens to photograph or record any building in public as long as they are standing on a public sidewalk? And what about basic training that photography and videography is not a crime?
The incident took place Thursday after an unprecedented day in which Redditors upended Wall Street by driving up the price of GameStop stock, resulting in the stock-trading app Robinhood responding by limiting trading, which prompted Redditors to call for a protest in front of the SEC building in Washington D.C.
Only three protesters showed up in addition to independent journalist Ford Fischer who showed up with his camera to interview them.
However, he was confronted by a pair of federally contracted security guards from a company called American Security Programs who told him he had every right to record from the sidewalk, just “not in the direction of the building.”
“It’s our job to protect the building,” the security guard explained.
The guards were wearing a shoulder patch describing them as “special police” – which perhaps means they have the power to arrest people – but their actions reveal a lack of knowledge on basic Constitutional law.
Nevertheless, the company claims on its website that all its officers undergo 128 hours of training so once again, we are reminded that basic Constitutional rights like video recording in public are not prioritized when training officers.
American Security Programs’ federal security teams typically receive more than 128 hours of training prior to assignment. We can certify personnel according to state standards, the standards of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), and the guidelines of the Federal Protective Services (FPS). We can additionally offer training that meets the specifications of the General Services Administration (GSA). We furthermore can train in accordance with pertinent military regulations, including AR-190-56, NAVFAC 5530.14c, A-830-2216, DoD 5210.56, DoD 5220.22-R, AFI 31-201, AFI 31-101. Our instructors are fully certified and experienced in their respective fields of responsibility.
This is how Fischer described the incident in the YouTube description. The video can be viewed above.
Investors on Reddit called for a protest at the SEC headquarters in Washington DC Thursday afternoon after stock broker application Robinhood halted buy orders for hotly traded stocks like AMC and Gamestop.
Three protesters showed up and spoke to News2Share, while two Special Police officers assigned to the SEC tried to prevent N2S from filming toward the building itself. The ensuing conversation became a makeshift “1st Amendment Audit.” “We all work for the corrupt” one of the officers said at 2:42 into this video.
Even after going back inside, the officers returned back outside as News2Share continued to speak to Michael, an activist who arrived with a sign that read “Hold the line” along with the Reddit logo.
Two additional activists also arrived, one in black bloc and the other an avowed communist. He says the recent market incident showed how hedge funds and the “ruling class” have class consciousness, and he says the working class need that too. He suggests unions, tenant organizations and debt/rent strikes as a solution.
“It is a right moment for educating them,” he said when asked about the unusual situation of a communist being aligned with a Reddit stock-trading community. “They’re already starting to see that curtain get pulled away… we’re just here helping them tear that entire curtain down.”
So perhaps it’s time for local videographers and photographers to show up in mass to the federal building and provide the training they have not received.