The fact of the matter is this -- this country has both laws and a process by which we create those laws. And as far as we are able to respect that process we are to respect the laws that are manifested as a result.
However, when that process is subverted, then those laws are unjust. And those unjust laws are not to be contingently afforded the same respect that is de facto granted to the process itself.
The cause for subversion of the process, no matter how sincere, brings into immediate question result of the process. In a just system, a good cause will, if not able to bring about the desired result by the means of the process, then seek to alter the process, within the means provided for by the process.
For instance, the problem with much of the response to September 11th is that the normally just process for making laws is being subverted on a regular basis. The so-called Patriot Act, for example, contains sections that appear contrary to the Constitution -- the foundation of the process -- and therefore undermining the legitimacy of the results (the laws) by subverting the process. In other words, the apparent unconstitutionality of parts of the Patriot Act is, by definition, the subversion of the process. It was rushed through a fearful and vengeful Congress before it was fully understood or its implications realized. Which is fair, and it sometimes happens in moments of crisis -- however, the rule of law that follows that process is no longer consistent with that of a just society.
None of which is to say that this invalidates the remainder of a presumably just system. An individual can not simply claim "systemic injustice!" and unburden himself of the rule of law. No, because unless the subversion is endemic then the result of processes to date are, by definition, producing just laws. Only the parts that arise as a consequence from the subversion of the just process are to be called into question.
I mention all of this because of the recent encounter Bay Area photographer Steve Malik had with the MUNI fare inspectors and the SFPD. SFist wrote about the incident, followed up on the story, then organized a trip to exercise our rights. The best thing to do is read the continuing coverage on SFist and check out all the pictures we took. The Director of Transportation, Michael Burns was very reasonable, and everything went without incident.
That's a very superficial reading of this whole thing, as I am still recovering a bit from last night's Ex-Model's show at Slims. I guess what I am trying to say is that it is not about rights, per se, but rather about justice. I don't believe we have any particular "right" to take photographs on the MUNI, or anywhere else for that matter, but that the privilege should not be taken away arbitrarily and without due process.
Pretty pictures below...