Pershing Square summer concert photo policy draws fire

Photojournalist Cliff Cheng typically photographs large demonstrations taking place in Pershing Square, so he was eager to present a different image of the downtown Los Angeles park at its six-week concert series this summer.

But he was dissuaded from snapping photos of bands at their outdoor performances when he learned of a policy that bars professional photography equipment from the space during concerts, amounting to, in his opinion, a violation of the 1st Amendment.

Prompted by a complaint from Cheng, the American Civil Liberties Union on Aug. 3 sent a letter to city officials denouncing the Pershing Square summer concert photo policy and requesting its reversal.

Photo, video and audio recording devices — including “pro cameras, monopods, tripods, selfie sticks, iPads or professional photography/video equipment of any type” — are barred from the Saturday night concerts at the request of some performers, according to the Pershing Square website. The policy does not bar people from taking photos or videos with their cellphones.

The policy was set up per contractual agreement with artists, the website says.

But the rules illegally restrict free speech rights, the civil liberties group contends.

“The city doesn’t have a right to contract away the people’s 1st Amendment rights because some performer wants it that way,” said ACLU of Southern California chief counsel Peter Eliasberg, adding that “the ban is grossly over-broad.”

Eliasberg wrote the seven-page letter, addressed to the city attorney and the general manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks, on behalf of more than a dozen journalism and photography organizations.

The letter also denounces the park’s ban on the distribution of promotional items and fliers during concerts without prior permission.

“Neither the photography/videography ban nor the arbitrary permitting scheme for the distribution of the…

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