Pershing Square concert
Pershing Square concert. Photo via Twitter

The American Civil Liberties Union has asked a court for a temporary restraining order against Los Angeles over the city’s attempt to ban professional photography at a series of free concerts in Pershing Square, an ACLU lawyer said Thursday.

The concert series began on July 15 and concludes on Saturday with the bands X and the Meat Puppets, and the city has been enforcing a ban on professional photography inside the park, although it did alter its policy after the ACLU sent a letter along with a group of journalism organizations two weeks ago arguing the ban was infringing on First Amendment rights because the concerts are in a public park.

The original ban prohibited pro cameras, monopopds, tripods, selfie sticks, iPads or professional photo or video equipment of any type, according to Peter Eliasberg, an attorney with the ACLU.

After the letter was sent, Eliasberg said the city altered the policy to only ban professional equipment, including cameras with interchangeable lenses and any form of a camera stand.

“Our clients want to be able to be there and use the camera equipment that they would ordinarily use,” said Eliasberg, whose clients are the National Press Photographers Association and photographer Cliff Cheng. “The city stopped them from doing that last week at the concert, and we have absolutely no reason to believe they won’t do exactly the same thing here, and that infringes on the First Amendment rights of our clients, and we need the court to give us a ruling.”

The TRO was filed Wednesday night and Eliasberg said a judge has not yet issued a ruling.

The City Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

The Radio Television Digital News Organization, the National Press Photographers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the California Broadcasters Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Photographic Artists, the American Society of Media Photographers, the Digital Media Licensing Association, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Professional Photographers of America, and Reporters Without Borders all sent the letter two weeks ago to the city asking for the policy to be changed.

“Pershing Square is a public forum, and remains one during the Summer Concert Series. The park does not suddenly become a non-public forum even if the city in some way yields control of the park to a concert promoter or other private party during the concerts, contrary to the city’s belief and practice … Numerous courts have rejected the argument that private contracting over traditional public forums abrogates the government’s First Amendment obligations,” the letter reads.

–City News Service

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