In "The Courage to Get Involved" - Your Right to Videotape Police has been upheld as constitutional by the First Circuit Federal Appeals Court.
This video from ACLU Mass includes an excerpt of Gliks original video and lays out the facts.
As documented in the "On Liberty" blog, the case involved Simon Glik, a passerby on the Boston Common who pulled out his cell phone video camera when he saw the Boston police punching a man as bystanders shouted, "You're hurting him."
Rather than walk away, Simon pulled out his cell phone. Standing 10 feet away, he videotaped the incident. Although he never interfered with the officers' actions, the police arrested Simon--handcuffing him and seizing his phone. They charged him with violating a wiretap statute that prohibits secret recording (although police admit they were aware Simon was not acting secretly), aiding the escape of a prisoner, and disturbing the peace.
A court subsequently threw out all criminal charges against Simon as lacking merit. But the effort to intimidate him was clear.
So Simon and the ACLU filed a civil rights suit to ensure that other innocent people won't be similarly arrested for doing what most people would consider a civic duty--documenting public instances of police misconduct.
More information and background on the case here.
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."
Attorneys for the city argued that police should have been immune from a civil rights lawsuits in this case because, they asserted, the law is unclear as to whether there is a "constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public".
Making the law crystal clear, the Court responded: "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", particularly on the Boston Common--the "apotheosis of a public forum."
The Court also made it clear that the right to videotape public officials isn't limited to the press. Rather, the Court noted, "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."
For more on this story Appeals Court Rules It Is Not Illegal To Film PoliceIn "The Courage to Get Involved" - Your Right to Videotape Police has been upheld as constitutional by the First Circuit Federal Appeals Court. This video from ACLU Mass includes an excerpt of Gliks original video and lays out the facts. As documented in the "On Liberty" blog, the case involved Simo ...