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Right to film cops at issue in Philly federal case

Posted on March 1st, 2016 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

Shadow WatchPhilly Voice reports that the Pennsylvania ACLU is planning to appeal following a decision last month by a federal court that a citizen has no First Amendment right to record police activity without a specific, critical reason for doing so. In the Feb. 19 decision, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled in Fields vs. City of Philadelphia that absent "any state purpose of being critical of the government," your freedom of speech is not applicable when recording the activities of police officers.

As Philly Voice explained after the ruling, the case was brought by plaintiffs Richard Fields and Amanda Geraci. In 2013, Fields, an undergraduate at Temple University, was recording some 20 police officers outside a house party on campus. Fields refused to leave when asked by officers, who then detained and handcuffed him, taking away his cell phone and putting him in a police van. His reason for filming was that he "just thought that would make a great picture." Geraci, an activist legal observer, was filming an protest in Philly a year earlier. When she moved towards an officer arresting a protester, she said she was physically restrained by another cop and prevented from recording the arrest.  Fields and Geraci both sued the city, claiming they faced retaliation for exercising their First Amendment rights.

The Pennsylvania ACLU is calling it the "Copwatch Case." Their executive director Reggie Shuford  said: "The freedom to monitor the police without fearing arrest or retaliation is one of the ways we distinguish a free society from a police state. Every court that has addressed this issue has ruled that the right to record the police performing their duties in public is at the core of what the First Amendment protects." He called Judge Mark Kearney's ruling "an outlier," adding that "we intend to appeal it."

Cross-post to High Times

Photo by Hammer51012  

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