[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

Mac Slavo
September 2nd, 2011

Whip out those cell phones and video cameras – we have great news!

It’s 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 Appeals–the highest 
federal court for New England just below the U.S. 
Supreme Court–last 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 public’s 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.”


It’s 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 don’t fight 
for our freedoms here at home we’re all going to lose them.”

The First Circuit Court’s decision would override 
any decision by a State judge, as it falls under 
the umbrella of the US Constitution, so we have 
no doubt Allison’s 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.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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