[Ppnews] First Circuit Court Rules Videotaping Cops Is Protected By First A mendment
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Sep 2 20:32:11 EDT 2011
Ground-Breaking Victory For the Common Man: First
Circuit Court Rules Videotaping Cops Is Protected By First Amendment
September 2nd, 2011
Whip out those cell phones and video cameras we have great news!
Its official, and the message to public servants
is clear Americans right to video record
police while they are executing their duties in a
public venue fits comfortably within first amendment activity:
Hear ye, hear ye!!
The First Circuit Court of Appealsthe highest
federal court for New England just below the U.S.
Supreme Courtlast Friday handed down a
ground-breaking decision defending our right to
videotape the police and other public officials
as they engage in their official duties.
On Friday, the First Circuit agreed. In a
decision that reads like an ode to the First
Amendment as key to both liberty and democracy, the court wrote:
The filming of government officials engaged in
their duties in a public place, including police
officers performing their responsibilities, fits
comfortably within these principles [of protected
First Amendment activity]. Gathering information
about government officials in a form that can
readily be disseminated to others serves a
cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting
and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs.
Basic First Amendment principles, along with
case law from this and other circuits, answer
that question unambiguously in the affirmative.
The Court further stated that such protections
should have been clear to the police all along,
noting that the right to videotape police
carrying out their duties in a public forum is
fundamental and virtually self-evident
The publics right of access to information is
coextensive with that of the press.
Moreover, changes in technology and society have
made the lines between private citizen and
journalist exceedingly difficult to draw, the
Court continued. The proliferation of electronic
devices with video-recording capability means
that many of our images of current events come
from bystanders with a ready cell phone or
digital camera rather than a traditional film
crew, and news stories are now just as likely to
be broken by a blogger at her computer as a
reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments
make clear why the news-gathering protections of
the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.
Its possible that the case, or a case of a
similar nature, will make its way to the U.S.
Supreme Court eventually, but we are hard pressed
to find a legitimate argument to the contrary,
and thus believe that the Supreme Court would
uphold the decision of the lower First Circuit Court of Appeals.
Of course, public officials, namely those who are
themselves breaking the law and violating the
rights of others, will continue to attempt to
intimidate the general public but only for a
bit longer. Take, for example, the
of Michael Allison, who faces life in prison on
multiple counts of wiretapping in Illinois for
recording law enforcement officers in public. The
Illinois Attorney General continues, at least as
of this writing, to pursue the case after Allison
refused a plea bargain that would have left him
with no jail time. Allison rebelliously responded
to the plea offer by saying, if we dont fight
for our freedoms here at home were all going to lose them.
The First Circuit Courts decision would override
any decision by a State judge, as it falls under
the umbrella of the US Constitution, so we have
no doubt Allisons charges will be dropped, or
simply overruled by a Federal court if it comes to that.
Once it becomes broadly known that this decision
has set a ground breaking precedent and that
there can be no criminal liability, Americans all
over the country will undoubtedly begin
documenting law enforcement activity and making
that documentation available on the internet for all to see.
An open society, and one that is legally
protected from the threat of intimidation and
unwarranted arrest for simply making a record of
police activity, is a freer society and this
recent decision from the First Circuit Court of
Appeals helps to ensure that freedom.
This is true transparency in government, an
example which should be carried on to the U.S.
Congress, where it would be in the best interests
of the people to have cameras and microphones in
any and all meetings where legislation or negotiation is taking place.
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