Federal Appeals Court Has Deemed Prohibiting Cameras or Filming Unconstitutional

Image from http://www.mysecuritysign.com/img/lg/S/Security-CCTV-Surveillance-Sign-S-4210.gif

Earlier this week, Ohio Republican House Representative Steve Chabot had cameras removed from constituents at a town hall meeting.  This particular story hit me personally, as I have been fighting this very same battle here in the state of Wisconsin for several months now. For daring to silently film public committee meetings held within the capitol building, I have been ticketed, dragged, cuffed, carried and arrested several times in the last three months.  If you watch this video, you will see the police try to remove me until stopped by House Democrats protesting such treatment (this would have been the third time I would have been removed so I guess three IS the lucky number).

This is an injustice to everyone. If we cannot hold our Government accountable or even film them when on duty working for us, then they shouldn’t be labeled as serving us.  So you can imagine how heartened I felt today upon stumbling across news of a Boston case that seems to have been clearly ruled in my favor.  The incident in question involved a gentleman by the name of Simon Glik who had seen the police in the middle of an arrest and started taping.  Not only did the police tell Glik that he could not film their activity, they also took his camera away and arrested him (charging him with some pretty heavy charges). All charges were, of course, dismissed (as all unconstitutional charges should be), however, the gentleman filed suit claiming his First and therefore also Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

This is the same argument I have been making for months.  But now we have proof that what the GOP in Wisconsin has been doing, including the rule that states that you cannot film in the gallery, is unconstitutional. To prove this I will refer to the judgement where the judge makes it very clear this applies to both Chabot and the Wisconsin GOP:

As the Supreme Court has observed, “the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw.” First Nat’l Bank v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 783 (1978); see also Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557, 564 (1969) (“It is . . .well established that the Constitution protects the right to receive information and ideas.”). An important corollary to this interest in protecting the stock of public information is that “[t]here is an undoubted right to gather news ‘from any source by means within the law.’” Houchins v. KQED, Inc., 438 U.S. 1, 11 (1978) (quoting Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 681-82 (1972)).

The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles. 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.” Mills v. Alabama, 384 U.S. 214, 218 (1966).

Moreover, as the Court has noted, “[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to government because ‘[i]t is here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.’” First Nat’l Bank, 435 U.S. at 777 n.11 (alteration in original) (quoting Thomas Emerson, Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment 9 (1966)).

This states very clearly that not only is it a right of citizens to record public officials, but makes the case that such activity should be actually encouraged to maintain democracy.  Without our First Amendment we are nothing.  Having an elected official that you cannot petition or that you cannot have First Amendment rights when around is like being a sports player and hiring an agent who you have never met and will never talk to.

But perhaps we deserve it.  I mean, how did we become so complacent as a nation that the majority of people have little to no understanding of the First Amendment?  We have decades of unconstitutional policies and we must all stand up across the country to protect our Freedom of Speech.

Until then, please do feel free to call Steve Chabot (R-OH) at (202) 225-2216 or any of the following members of the Wisconsin GOP who has ordered me removed for silently filming, including Robin Vos (608) 266-9171, Alberta Darling (608) 266-5830, Bill Kramer (608) 266-8580, Scott Suder (608) 267-0280, Michael Ellis (608) 266-0718, Scott Fitzgerald (608) 266-5660, Jim Ott (608) 266-0486, and Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs (608) 266-7700.

Let them know the precedent is already set.  One Day Longer!  One Day Stronger!

Jeremy Ryan

Executive Director

Defending Wisconsin PAC

[email protected]

Note: Segway Jeremy Ryan has become a full-time member of the protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Formerly a businessman, he gave up his business to join the fight for the middle class in the State of Wisconsin. Through videos and writings he has informed hundreds of thousands of people of what was going on at the Wisconsin State Capitol once the mainstream media had mostly abandoned the protests. His full-time activism is completely funded by the people. If you would like to help out please click here.
Edited By: Sherri Yarbrough