Photographing and filming police officers in public is a constitutional right protected by the First Amendment. That’s what a federal appeals court unanimously affirmed this week in cases involving Philadelphia officers retaliating against citizens pointing cameras at them.
Slate reports that the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was for two cases. In one, a woman named Amanda Geraci was restrained across the neck by a police officer while trying to film the arrest of an anti-fracking protester. In the second, a Temple undergraduate named Richard Fields was handcuffed and prosecuted after trying to film officers breaking up a house party.
A District Court previously had ruled that both Geraci and Fields had engaged in “conduct” only and not “expressive conduct,” and that therefore their filming wasn’t a First Amendment “freedom of speech” issue. But in Friday’s ruling, the Federal Appeals Court disagreed.
“Every Circuit Court of Appeals to address this issue […] has held that there is a First Amendment right to record police activity in public,” the judges write in their opinion. “Today we join this growing consensus. Simply put, the First Amendment protects the act of photographing, filming, or otherwise recording police officers conducting their official duties in public.”
“The First Amendment protects actual photos, videos, and recordings, […] and for this protection to have meaning the Amendment must also protect the act of creating that material.”
“We ask much of our police,” the judges write in the closing statements. “They can be our shelter from the storm. Yet officers are public officials carrying out public functions, and the First Amendment requires them to bear bystanders recording their actions. This is vital to promote the access that fosters free discussion of governmental actions, especially when that discussion benefits not only citizens but the officers themselves.”
So there you have it: police officers don’t have the right to squash free speech by ordering you to stop shooting photos of them in public.
Image credits: Header illustration based on photo by Elvert Barnes and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
h/t John Gwillam, Facebook
IT’S ABOUT TIME!
Don’t you always hate it when Rights you believed to be self-evident truths have to work their way up the judicial chain just to be affirmed as valid?
Of course, this hasn’t yet reached The Supreme Court(!)
I have a book that a reader sent me a year or two ago – and I apologize but I don’t remember who sent it – It’s about a guy who took it into his head to semi-retire into the Alaskan outback, near or above the Arctic circle. You know, just go out there and build a cabin and live.
Now, that’s more-or-less the plot of Into the Wild, and I think we know how that story turned out. But this older guy, Richard Proenneke, wasn’t some overindulged and suicidally starry-eyed kid. He was an old Alaska hand and actually knew what he was doing. He built a cabin that was a literal work of art – after he got old and retired from retiring, it became a tourist attraction for really hardy tourists. It makes the Secret Lair look like a particularly disreputable shed. And he made nearly every part of it from native wood or stone or bone – hell, he carved wooden door hinges.
Every single thing he had that he couldn’t make himself had to be flown in on a little bush plane and it could only happen a few months out of the year, so space and weight were real factors. And I was looking at the photographs reproduced in the book – Proenneke was a photographer, and my only complaint about the book is there aren’t enough photographs – and in one shot of the cabin’s interior I saw…a roll of paper towels.
And I had me a chuckle. Now, here’s a package of six paper towel rolls, which I just bought today…
It doesn’t weigh hardly anything, of course, but it’s bulky as hell. I suppose you could open the package and distribute the rolls around the plane, but my point is that if it needs to come by bush plane, you’d have to really want that roll of paper towels. Seems like there are more important things to which you could devote that plane space.
Except maybe there aren’t. When I was first alone out here, experimenting with ways to make due with virtually no income and really studying the difference between a want and a need, I learned that the line between the two is not always clear. Some commodities, while of course you can get along without them in the sense that you won’t actually die, are themselves so useful that it almost doesn’t matter. It’s not a question of life and death, it’s a question of quality of life. Indoor plumbing: Have I ever wasted a moment wishing I hadn’t devoted all that precious Lair space to an indoor toilet? Nope, not so much as a millisecond. To the best of my knowledge, and leaving poisonous spiders out of it, nobody ever died from using an outhouse as I originally planned. But a flush toilet is just such a massive improvement that, if you’ve got the water pressure, only an idiot would decide not to go ahead and dig for a septic system. Electricity’s the same way: Not a necessity of life, but look at all the things it makes possible.
Those are big things. There’s a myriad of little ones, like paper towels. It’s good to pay attention and learn what those things are, because it’s the little things that mark the difference between living and just surviving.
PAY ATTENTION – my personal motto.
I’ve found in my years that had I paid attention (or more attention) perhaps things would have turned our better or differently. Perhaps not.
But almost always were worse for having not done so.
Most of you know I was raised on TV and movies. It was an escape from my somewhat dysfunctional family and from the daily stress of life. My roomie and I still enjoy much on electronic media, especially now that so many choices are available.
I recently completed watching the many morality plays that made up Have Gun – Will Travel. Certainly NOT your typical horse opera. And I went looking for something else.
And I found something. It was produced in 2008. (see, behind the times!)
It was an HBO production, and I found it on On Demand on DISH. A seven part mini-series.
This, too, is no horse opera. It is based on the David McCullough book about our second President, and his life leading up to his Presidency. He was not handsome; he was not a great orator. He didn’t stir the passions his cousin Sam Adams did.
But, he WAS a man of principle.
I find myself wondering if he was the last man of principle to hold that office, politics being as they are.
He abhorred slavery, and unlike some of the other Founding Fathers didn’t own any. He was very uncomfortable with Dr. Franklin’s dalliances while they were on a diplomatic visit to France during The Revolution, and by all accounts was loyal to his wife. He was not afraid to pick up a gun in defense of his country.
But few remembered the second President. Until the book and this mini-series.
You should read/watch it!
PREACHER ON TV: …nointed with oil on troubled waters? Oh, Heavenly Grid, help us bear up thy Standard, our Chevron flashing bright across the Gulf of Compromise, standing Humble on the Rich Field of Mobile American Thinking? Here in this Shell we call Life… (excerpted from The Firesign Theatre’s “How Can You Be In Two Places At Once, When You’re Not Anywhere At All”)
Oregon Department of Transportation
By all accounts, Robin Speronis is engaged in a successful experiment in “living off the grid” in Cape Coral, Florida. The 54-year-old former real estate agent disconnected from city water and power about a year and a half ago. Now she relies on solar panels, propane lanterns, and collected rain water in her duplex and seems quite happy about it. But the city clearly is not. Officials tried to boot her from her home, and have now given her until the end of March to reconnect to the grid. A special magistrate who tossed many of the charges and admits that reasonableness may not play a role in the rules says she will ultimately have to comply. Speronis is standing firm.
You can’t be FREE, all by yourself, doing as you please! That’s not being part of the collective! Don’t you know it takes a village? Resistance is futile!
Okay, all you freedom-loving self-actualized, libertarians and self-governing folks. Listen up. The government NEEDS you.
Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun – Mao Tse Tung
h/t Say Uncle
So, this Boxing Day night last, I’m sitting alone at the computer, trying to think of something profound. Having failed miserably at that, I went to gunbloggers.com, and the most current post at the time was from The View From North Central Idaho.
My search for profundity stopped there!
A human right is a bit like the sun. The sun is essential to life. You can bask in it, or hide from it. You may be able to change people’s attitudes toward it, or even start a religion around it. You may hate it or love it, or be largely indifferent to it, or think anything you want to think about it. If you fail to deal with it properly it can burn or even kill you, but without it you are dead. You could get a group of sun haters together in the street and carry picket signs denouncing the sun, and you might even be able to lobby enough idiots and criminals in Congress to get laws passed denouncing the sun.
But two things will remain true no matter what you think or do. A) your life depends on the sun, and B) neither you, nor any group of people, any committee or government body, no force on Earth, has the power to alter it in any way. You did not create it and you cannot alter or destroy it.
Similarly, human rights can be respected and honored, or they might be despised and violated, but they cannot be created, granted, altered, revoked or destroyed by any force on Earth no matter how popular or powerful that force may be. That’s where we get…
You need to go and read the whole thing. Especially if you don’t know the answer!
Kevin Baker (of The Smallest Minority) brings to us an essay of enormous import. In part:
The Information Age is here. Government v.2.0 is massive, sclerotic, invasive, inept, corrupt, incompetent, malicious, vindictive – it is, in short, what the second type of bureaucrats make it in the furtherance of the bureaucracy and their own power and privilege. And the Iron Law of Oligarchy says:
Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy.
People keep acting as though things can keep going on as they have, but as Glenn Reynolds keeps repeating, “Something that can’t go on forever, won’t.” ~
~ One thing’s for sure – the powerful and privileged will do whatever it takes to keep as much power and privilege as they can. And Government v.2.0 will be the tool by which it’s accomplished.
You need to go and read the entire work. Kevin draws on the wisdom of historical giants, and his own, to weave for us this important message quoted above.
I’m hoping mercy will be included in the process, but if history is any indication, I doubt it.
In the United States the right to petition is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the federal constitution, which specifically prohibits Congress from abridging “the right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Although often overlooked in favor of other more famous freedoms, and sometimes taken for granted, many other civil liberties are enforceable against the government only by exercising this basic right. The right to petition is a fundamental in a Constitutional Republic, such as the United States, as a means of protecting public participation in government.(Wikipedia)
Way Up North (and now Tam) brought to our attention (in demure fanfare, as is their tradition) a movement regarding individual States of these United States petitioning for peaceful secession from the same!
I went to the All Petitions/whitehouse.gov website, and was amazed! First, that such a group of petitions existed and second, that ‘the government’ had allowed such behavior, given their track record on such things!
By my count, there 24 States, including mine, with listed petitions!
Is this treasonous, or simply the right to petition?
One of my favorites from childhood (WAY back in the 1950s) was Gene Autry. Along with Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers, he embodied much of the Western mythos that was presented to we children. In later life, he contributed heavily to charity, and even owned a baseball team. Obviously, Capitalism was good to him.
But, Mr. Autry wasn’t just a capitalist, film, radio and TV star. He set forth in his radio show a set of rules to live by. The Cowboy Code. Granted, they may seem trite by today’s standards, but in their simplicity and directness really aren’t a bad way to conduct oneself.
A Cowboy Must:
- Never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage;
- Never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him;
- Always tell the truth;
- Be gentle with children, the elderly and animals;
- Not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas;
- Help people in distress;
- Be a good worker;
- Keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits;
- Respect women, parents and his nation’s laws;
- Be a patriot.
I don’t recall having any toys attributed to him (I still have my Hopalong Cassidy watch, somewhere!) but finding these rules in my Internet travels is a better remembrance.
My question is this – what values are being presented to today’s children steeped in popular culture? From the Kardashians to the Octomom…what are their rules to live by?
(I DO apologize for mentioning them – Guffaw)
I was reading A Girl and Her Gun (which if you’re not reading, you should!) and she linked to The GunDivas, wherein she was a guest blogger (!)
And there was an earlier post in The GunDivas that caught my eye, specifically, How Many is Too Many?
I’ve never considered this concept as valid. How much Free Speech is too much? How much Religious expression (OR purposeful avoidance of Religious expression) is excessive?
Or petitioning redress of grievances? How many complaints are allowable?
It’s a spurious question, as in “When did you stop beating your wife?”
Whether I own one firearm (a single-shot H&R Topper shotgun) or three-hundred (assorted pistols, revolvers, military-style rifles, shotguns) is of no consequence. And it’s certainly no business of anyone else, or the government.
It’s Our Right. Period.
And the blog post made mention of the word arsenal. Sadly, in today’s culture, this word has developed a negative connotation.
I use the word collection. It’s more benign. Even though I no longer have one.
PS – It always kills me when I hear, especially in media reports “the alleged bad guy had X number of guns AND Y amount of ammunition.” Again, how much is too much?
There are reports of more small arms ammunition shortages, as we had in 2009. Because we are running up to the election? Whether Tweedledee or Tweedledum win, both are not ardent proponents of the civil right enumerated in Amendment the Second.
h/t GunDiva, A Girl and Her Gun
The Travis McGee Reader expounds on the following:
The Commonwealth of Virginia is on the verge of repealing its one-pistol-a-month law, and the Washington Post is dribbling in its didies.
Does the Second Amendment guarantee a right to purchase dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of deadly weapons each month?
Why, yes, in fact it does. If it were otherwise it could easily be interpreted to to limit insipid editorials to one a month. Useful, perhaps, but unconstitutional and therefore out of the question.