Photographers take to the streets July 4 in protest of the Peterson Companies' policy on picture-taking in Downtown Silver Spring.
The Peterson Companies were given a quick dressing-down by County Executive Ike Leggett in a brief but pointed letter sent out Friday. This follows a month and a half of Peterson's insisting that their Downtown Silver Spring complex was simply a mall without a roof.
The County leased Ellsworth Drive, the main street in the complex, to Peterson ten years ago, giving them the right to manage the street but not the title. Peterson argues that this arragement gave them the right to limit free speech as they did by hassling photographer Chip Py in June.
"I wish to make clear the County's position regarding Ellsworth [Drive, in Downtown Silver Spring]," Leggett writes, going on to say that
"The County considers Ellsworth to be a public forum permitting the free and unfettered exercise of First Amendment rights by residents of the County and its visitors to the extent as those rights are exercisable by residents and visitors to the County on any public sidewalk or public street within the County . . . I trust that you will agree with me and will ensure that your rules and regulations for the use of Ellsworth by the public appropriately recognize and protect the First Amendment rights of residents and visitors."At Ike Leggett's town hall meeting the night before the letter was sent, Chip Py asked Leggett why he hadn't stated his position on the issue already. It just goes to show how responsive our County government can be - when you kick them hard enough.
Will this be the end of the Silver Spring photo controversy? Hopefully, Ike Leggett's letter will be the final word.