Film Is Not A Crime
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Uploaded on Mar 7, 2007
recorded & produced by K'Nected Media http://knectedmedia.com
Article (Dec. 2007) in the Tacoma News Tribune:
Officers at the Port of Tacoma didn't understand the rights of photographers or journalists. A group of six officers accosted me while I began filming the Port of Tacoma for coverage of the Stryker Brigade Protests in March of 2007.
I did not cross any barricades to reach the point I was at in the video. I had parked in a public parking lot and walked toward the gate where I began setting my video camera up. Several officers were standing at a gate seventy meters away: one officer told me that I needed to cross to the 'other side' of a barricade (and then another told me 'the other side of the light') which was further down the street in the opposite direction from the parking lot. So this had confused me, and I was not allowed to explain where I was coming from, nor allowed to get back to my vehicle.
Komo 4 and/or King 5, mobile television news networks with crew vans, were standing near or in the exact same location earlier. But seeing that I was not a member of the professional media class, the police decided to arrest me, and then they detained me for an hour in the back of a squad car. I was not read the Miranda rights, nor shown respect for any of the rights pertaining to a free and open press. As the officer who is shown in the video told me later, he doesn't care about "judges sitting in courtrooms with their black robes." He told me "I don't want to hear you complaining about your constitutional rights, son. You're lucky we're letting you go." They took my car keys and presumably searched my car. I was told they then had a trespass warrant for me, in which case I would be arrested for trespassing on public property if I went back to the Port of Tacoma later that week.
There was never a trespass warrant. I had not violated any ad hoc 'protest rules' (which were poorly marked by the way). And I was never in fact arrested. I was told to leave and that I was in fact "lucky" I was not being arrested. Five months later I received a letter of apology from the Tacoma Police Department.
Why had there been all this fuss?
The Port of Tacoma is frequently being used for shipments of Stryker vehicles, projectile weapons, and other heavy military equipment bound for Iraq. At the time of this incident, the area had already been surveyed by several other news organizations, which included aerial shots, because of growing protests at the port. Yet it appeared that depending on whose camera that information was captured on the police shifted policies and became more confusing and angry.
Even if you know your rights and have legitimate interests in filming or taking pictures around sensitive issues, you are still subject to police misconduct and ideological mistreatment from the police. The only advice I can give for people in similar situations is to stay calm and explain that you have a right to be where you are, explain the path you took to arrive at your location, and continue filming or taking pictures. The police have no right to interfere with your work and discriminate against you for not being a member of the professional media class. If they decide to arrest you, as they did here, they may detain you for up to an hour without actually arresting you. This is called a "terry stop". But you are technically not "under arrest" and saying this is false and misleading. You are only being held for an definite amount of time. Remember what they tell you, write down what happened later, and speak to legal counsel afterwards.
Please read more about your rights as a photographer or citizen journalist. Freedom of the press in our society does not pertain only to those who are branded with the insignia of mainstream media networks. Anyone with the ability to publish possesses all the rights pertaining to a free and independent press. These are not secret rights that are confounded upon those who graduate from prestigious schools of journalism, but the right of every citizen. When the police and the society as a whole do not understand this, nor have respect for this, consider whether you are living in a policed state.
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