Join 3,495 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A Chilling Effect?
October 1, 2006 7:25 PM   Subscribe

VBlogger and journalist jailed for refusing to give up footage of protest
Josh Wolf is a video blogger and freelance journalist who was jailed by a U.S. district court on August 1, 2006 for refusing to turn over a collection of videos he recorded during a July 2005 anarchist protest in San Francisco, California. During that event, anarchists allegedly set a police cruiser on fire. [more inside]
posted by stenseng (58 comments total)

 
Does this mean that any person with a camera taking pictures of an event can claim to be a journalist?
posted by Postroad at 7:29 PM on October 1, 2006


Here's the scoop: The feds want him to turn over raw footage he shot a protest, and he has refused. On July 8th 2005, an anti-corporate globalization protest devolved into chaos in San Francisco’s Mission District. A cop was severely injured in the fracas and someone allegedly attempted to set an SFPD car alight – the damage to the squad car was reportedly limited to a busted taillight.

Wolf videotaped portions of the protest and sold his footage to KRON, an independent local station that has been experimenting with “citizen journalism.” The government claims he may have evidence relevant to their case on his tape. Wolf says he doesn’t. If you think this all sounds like a local issue, one that could be settled by say, the local district attorney and local courts, Think again. Apparently, because SFPD gets Homeland Security cash, the case belongs in Federal court. Why did the government want him in federal court? Because California, like 16 others states plus Washington DC, has a journalist shield law which allows reporters to protect their sources (and raw materials like interview transcripts and videotapes) from the prying eyes of the Man.
posted by stenseng at 7:29 PM on October 1, 2006


More inside is your friend.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:31 PM on October 1, 2006


Yeah, sorry about that. Realized I shoul've broken it up better just after I clicked the post button. I don't fpp often, so bear with my rustiness.

As to the journalist issue, I'd be super interested to hear what Digaman and some of the other Mefites who are working journalists have to say on the issue.

However, maybe equally important - does this mean that police agencies that receive Federal money are then under Federal jurisdiction? Does this abridge the authority of city and state law enforcement?
posted by stenseng at 7:35 PM on October 1, 2006


I'm all for journalist rights and stuff, but this case seems kind of silly to block the investigation over. Lots of protests/celebrations/concerts get videotaped and whenever someone gets hurt or property gets damaged, the police want to know if anyone has any footage that could be used as evidence. Now, maybe this guy has nothing, but it seems like he's gone pretty far to defend it, and all over what, busting a few dudes with bandanas over their faces and Che shirts that broke a few small things?

This doesn't seem like a fasicst government getting all "YOUR PAPERS PLEASE" with jack-booted thugs so much as "yo, can we get a copy of that videotape you shot?"
posted by mathowie at 7:45 PM on October 1, 2006


FYI, y'all can stop emailing me asking if I'm that guy.
posted by mkultra at 7:49 PM on October 1, 2006


This doesn't seem like a fasicst government getting all "YOUR PAPERS PLEASE" with jack-booted thugs so much as "yo, can we get a copy of that videotape you shot?"

The Cali courts can ask nicely, too. The feds took it to their courts to work around the state law and demand instead of asking.

"Yo, can we get a copy" != "Give us a copy or get jailed"
posted by mystyk at 7:52 PM on October 1, 2006


Thanks for the post cleanup, Matt.
posted by stenseng at 7:53 PM on October 1, 2006


This reminds me of the material witness statute. It also reminds me of the "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule.

Where am I going? Well, if a government official has probable cause and is acting in good faith (as determined by the courts), I see no problem with seizing these tapes as an example of the material witness statue.

These tapes serve as the "eyes" of citizens. They are (or should be) witnesses in an ongoing criminal investigation and IMHO these tapes should receive less protections than individuals.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:53 PM on October 1, 2006


mathowie pretty much said all that I was going to, except...

I've been to a few protests (marijuana legalization) and the cops were there videotaping the whole thing. I must have been on 3 cameras at various points in the protest march. Since I participated, in public, I gave up any expectation of privacy that I had. This blogger doesn't have a leg to stand on here.
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:54 PM on October 1, 2006


statute.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:55 PM on October 1, 2006


Does this mean that any person with a camera taking pictures of an event can claim to be a journalist?

Why not?
posted by delmoi at 8:00 PM on October 1, 2006


To summarize, the federal court has jurisdiction because the grand jury is investigating potential federal crimes, including the attempt to burn police cars, which were paid for in part with federal funds. Because a federal grand jury is investigating potential federal crimes, the court has jurisdiction to issue a subpoena, which is in turn governed by federal privilege law, and not the California shield law.

Now, Wolf appears to claim that the only reason a federal grand jury was convened was to get circumvent the shield law and get at his videotape. That's a pretty bold claim, and I don't see him offering us any evidence for it. Indeed, Wolf's own affidavit reveals that the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force interviewed him within days of the event, indicating that the feds were investigating potential federal crimes from the beginning.

It's one thing to argue that the lack of a federal shield law is a bad thing, particularly in contrast to state law in places like California. But that's a very different thing than arguing that the feds have convened a grand jury for the sole purpose of evading the state shield law under the guise of investigating potential federal crimes. Wolf's got the burden of proof on that claim, and has a long way to go before he carries it.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:03 PM on October 1, 2006


Well, it raises an interesting question. If anyone can get a blog, can anyone refuse to tell what they've been told by their 'sources'? The journalist shield law gets fuzzy when the definition of "journalist" get fuzzy.

The ideal solution would be to legislate the minimum requirements to receive protection under the law. Such as "the person was making a good faith effort to gather information in order to inform the public"

Seems reasonable to me.
posted by delmoi at 8:04 PM on October 1, 2006


Now, Wolf appears to claim that the only reason a federal grand jury was convened was to get circumvent the shield law and get at his videotape. That's a pretty bold claim, and I don't see him offering us any evidence for it.

Do the feds normally get involved in petty vandalism cases? Seems pretty unusual to me.
posted by delmoi at 8:06 PM on October 1, 2006


Alleged firebombing of a police car during a protest doesn't sound like petty vandalism.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:09 PM on October 1, 2006


monju, thanks for the level-headed summary upthread.
posted by brain_drain at 8:23 PM on October 1, 2006


My pen is a knife
Stabbing at the bitter truth
My camera is a gun
Shooting reality at 30 frames-per-second.
And my voice is a cannon
Booming into the night, a rallying cry.

I am a prisoner of war.
Captured in the campaign to destroy the press.
A political prisoner accused of no crime,
Another casualty in a civil war for civil liberties.


If nothing else, Josh Wolf is guilty of advocating bad poetry.
posted by dhammond at 8:33 PM on October 1, 2006


I have been a working journalist, and I find the shield laws a bit silly. Everyone else in the country operates under a uniform set of procedures:

--if a civil or criminal court case involves someone else, and you have physical evidence that could affect it, you MUST give it up if asked
--if a civil or criminal court case involves someone else, and you experienced something, you MUST talk about it if asked
--if a civil case involves you, you MUST talk about it if asked and MUST produce physical things if asked
--if a criminal case involves you, you NEED NOT talk about it nor produce physical things

These rules are our society's ALTERNATIVE to torture. They aid judges in getting to the truth. They are good rules.

There are some tiny exceptions, but that's basically it. Yet somehow being a journalist means you get giant, categorical exceptions from these rules? Even when you're not, say, protecting an anonymous whistle-blowing source from government retribution? Foo on that.
posted by jellicle at 8:46 PM on October 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


IIRC, (and I may be wrong) the shield laws that he's trying to hide behind are meant to protect a source. He's not protecting a source, he's protecting a video.

This guy is yet another indymedia whackjob that's trying to make a big name for himself. Here is the SFGate article about the original event. Here's a choice quote from Josh Wolf: "Josh Wolf, who considers himself an anarchist and "loosely identifies" with the indybay group, spent the evening videotaping events.

He said at one point, "Some sort of a scuffle broke out, which prompted a whole bunch of cops to declare martial law. They said 'Disperse!' and aimed laser-pointed taser guns at us -- it was like something out of Star Wars."

As for why the protesters had gathered in the first place, Wolf said, "The mission is to make an affront against capitalism and empire.""

Basically, he's trying to be a martyr for the new 'indy blogger media.' Problem is, he's quite likely doing more harm than good to actual journalists. Here's a thread from a local commentary site. It links to quite a few photos, showing some of the vandalism.
So if there were so many people there with video cameras and stuff, how come the only videos that indybay/indymedia puts forth are the ones from Josh Wolf?

Many people were outraged at the original "protest." This guy is just being an ass at this point. Even the 9th Circuit basically said he has no case.
posted by drstein at 9:52 PM on October 1, 2006


I think all film should be accessible to anyone at any time. Including all film taken by cops or law enforcement.

I think all cops and elected or public officials should have a camera on them 24 hours a day. That camera will be accessed over the web by anyone who wants to watch.

Who will watch the watchers? We will.
posted by nyxxxx at 9:54 PM on October 1, 2006


drstein writes "IIRC, (and I may be wrong) the shield laws that he's trying to hide behind are meant to protect a source. He's not protecting a source, he's protecting a video."

Exactly. The whole point of shield laws is that they protect whistleblowers. The whole point of protecting whistleblowers is that if you don't, they won't blow whistles. This guy is trying to protect a videotape, on the ground that, what, if he hands it over, other videotapes will refuse to record crimes?
posted by Bugbread at 10:37 PM on October 1, 2006


Why doesnt he just say that his computer crashed and ate the video
posted by criticalbill at 11:29 PM on October 1, 2006


Wolf has no case from what I can see; I have no idea how this is supposed to induce a chilling effect of free speech. There's no source here to protect.

Given that, there's no legitimate reason to deny him bail. The judge is trying to make an example out of him, which is not justice.
posted by spaltavian at 12:04 AM on October 2, 2006


What about his right to remain silent? I don't really see what's so different about incriminating yourself or somebody else by what you say and by a video that you have made.

It is a bit silly of people to assume that this is about vandalism just because the police says it is about vandalism. It is just as likely that they want it for more nefarious things, but have decided that they will more easily get access to the film if they say it contains pictures of somebody trying to set fire to a police car.
posted by JoddEHaa at 3:39 AM on October 2, 2006


I have no idea how this is supposed to induce a chilling effect of free speech

yeah, living in a police state is no big deal wrt traditional/ideal american freedoms of assembly etc.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:35 AM on October 2, 2006


This guy is trying to protect a videotape, on the ground that, what, if he hands it over, other videotapers will refuse to record crimes public assemblies?

ftfy
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:36 AM on October 2, 2006


My guess is that it was some of his friends who were trying to set the cop car on fire, and he thought it was hilarious at the time so he taped it. "Yeah, stick it to the man!" Then, when he realized that the police could use said videotapes to convict his friends, he got all shield law happy.

For an anarchist, he seems to be hiding pretty securely behind that shield law. Does he know what anarchist means?
posted by antifuse at 5:33 AM on October 2, 2006


Does he know what anarchist means?

Do you?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:39 AM on October 2, 2006


JoddEHaa writes "What about his right to remain silent?"

I am not a lawyer, but why would he have the right to remain silent regarding someone else's crimes? Isn't the right to remain silent only for the person being arrested or their family? Isn't that the whole point of subpeonas and the like; calling people to the stand to testify?

Heywood Mogroot writes "This guy is trying to protect a videotape, on the ground that, what, if he hands it over, other videotapers will refuse to record crimes public assemblies?"

Fine, but what does that have to do with shield laws? He's not protecting the identity of any sources, which is what the shield laws are all about. Perhaps having the tape handed over would have a chilling effect (though, personally, if I were going to take part in a public assembly where we tried to torch a cop car, I'd be much much happier if nobody videotaped me doing it), but considering that shield laws are meant to A) protect the anonymity of journalist sources that are B) exposing a crime, and this guy A) has no source whose identity isn't already known, and is B) trying not to expose a crime, I don't see how it relates to shield laws.
posted by Bugbread at 5:40 AM on October 2, 2006


Does he know what anarchist means?

Do you?

Apparently I didn't, having just looked it up (interesting stuff, incidentally... much deeper than one would expect). All I knew about it was what I learned from so-called "anarchists" at a rally like this one (I was curious and dropped by one once, talked to quite a few "down with all government" folk... they also seemed to be "down wil all personal hygiene" folk, but I digress). So, I guess the question is, do *real* anarchists go to these rallies? Or is it just a fun reason for the too cool for school kids to set cop cars on fire? One would presume that these dudes trying to set *cop cars* on fire didn't have much respect for the law that ol' Josh is trying to hide behind, but maybe they just didn't like how the laws were enforced. Yeah, I'm sure that's it.
posted by antifuse at 6:19 AM on October 2, 2006


the particulars of this case, who did what to whom, interest me not in the slightest. The precedents will live on long after we forget who this clown was.

IANAL, so I yield to what the shield laws are "all about", but in the society I would want to live in, a person creating a video tape of a public demonstration would not be required to hand it over to the authorities, as part of the deal of living in a free society.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:21 AM on October 2, 2006


yeah, the bomb-throwers give anarchists a bad name. From what I gather they're a mosquito's eyebrow from WSJ OpEd minarchists. As for their offensiveness, in my more cynical moments I suspect half of these clowns are actually black false-flag CIA-funded counter-agitprop programs, designed to give the anti-government opposition a bad public face, but I recognize this is not supportable or scientific.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:27 AM on October 2, 2006


"in my more cynical moments I suspect half of these clowns are actually black false-flag CIA-funded counter-agitprop programs, designed to give the anti-government opposition a bad public face, but I recognize this is not supportable or scientific."

Total aside from this thread, but that's certainly what the "Anarchists from Eugene" appeared to be at the first Seattle WTO protests when I was there - a bunch of clean cut military looking dudes, badly camouflaged in matching baggy pants and black hooded sweatshirts, each with a brand new plain black nylon fanny pack loaded with steel shot and a brand new wrist rocket, which they were using to bust up downtown store windows, and generally wreak havoc at an otherwise peaceful protest of hundreds of thousands of people.

How do I know? I saw several of them in action, and actually recovered one of the fanny packs after one of the "anarchists" dumped it in a trash bin.

Funny how they moved like a military operation, never said a word, and all their gear was unmarked and brand new.

They were either strikingly well organized and coordinated for so called "anarchists" or they were there to cause trouble and give the media neg spin on the event.
posted by stenseng at 6:55 AM on October 2, 2006


And they say that smoking pot has no harmful side effects. ;-)
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:00 AM on October 2, 2006


It is a bit silly of people to assume that this is about vandalism just because the police says it is about vandalism. It is just as likely that they want it for more nefarious things, but have decided that they will more easily get access to the film if they say it contains pictures of somebody trying to set fire to a police car.

That's just asinine. Do you trust anyone about anything, or do you see conspiracies everywhere you look?

IANAL, so I yield to what the shield laws are "all about", but in the society I would want to live in, a person creating a video tape of a public demonstration would not be required to hand it over to the authorities, as part of the deal of living in a free society.

You're conveniently forgetting that he taped a federal crime.

Get your heads out of your asses people- just because you WANT something to be doesn't mean it IS.
posted by mkultra at 7:03 AM on October 2, 2006


frankly this sounds a lot like "who can be a bigger dick?"

the geek, who has a chip on his shoulder and likes the attention, or the govt officer, who has to make sure you know HE's the man.
posted by duality at 7:53 AM on October 2, 2006


Heywood Mogroot : "in the society I would want to live in, a person creating a video tape of a public demonstration would not be required to hand it over to the authorities, as part of the deal of living in a free society."

Well, first, just clarifying (and I may just be misunderstanding what you're saying), from what I understand, he isn't required to hand over the video tape, just the footage. That is, he can make a copy and provide it to them, or make a copy and give them the originals. It's not like he isn't allowed to keep the video, just that he has to give them a copy of it.

Second, what about testifying in court? Would you like to live in a country where a person who watches a public demonstration would be required to testify in court about seeing a crime? If so, why the line between providing a copy of a tape, and providing verbal testimony?
posted by Bugbread at 8:18 AM on October 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Priest-penitent, doctor-patient, attorney-client, and spousal are the federally-recognized privileges against incriminating others. An even if it were proved that the federal investigation was convened specifically to overcome state-law obstacles to prosecution, that wouldn't stop the federal investigation: it's the very essence of federal prosecution (at least in the past 40 years) that it be used highly selectively and often deliberately to fill a gap in state enforcement. For example, medical marijuana prosecutions in California, or (re)prosecutions as federal civil rights violations of offenses which a state wouldn't prosecute, or couldn't prosecute successfully, as garden-variety assaults or murders.
posted by MattD at 8:46 AM on October 2, 2006


MattD : "Priest-penitent, doctor-patient, attorney-client, and spousal are the federally-recognized privileges against incriminating others."

Ah, thanks. I'm a bit surprised there's no "child-parent" in there.
posted by Bugbread at 8:51 AM on October 2, 2006


mkultra wrote: That's just asinine. Do you trust anyone about anything, or do you see conspiracies everywhere you look?

What? Are you being ironic? It's not like I'm suggesting black helicopters are giving people anal probes. Only people with particularly square brains would question that mean sadists are an over represented part of the population in most police forces, but there are of course also many who are sensible and caring.
posted by JoddEHaa at 9:01 AM on October 2, 2006


There are enough mean sadists, with nefarious plots, to make nefarious police plotting equally likely as actual car burning?
posted by Bugbread at 9:14 AM on October 2, 2006


Well, first, just clarifying (and I may just be misunderstanding what you're saying), from what I understand, he isn't required to hand over the video tape, just the footage. That is, he can make a copy and provide it to them, or make a copy and give them the originals. It's not like he isn't allowed to keep the video, just that he has to give them a copy of it.

...mumble mumble fucking lawyers...

Second, what about testifying in court? Would you like to live in a country where a person who watches a public demonstration would be required to testify in court about seeing a crime? If so, why the line between providing a copy of a tape, and providing verbal testimony?

Taping in this context is an act of protection for the demonstators, intended to document abuse by authorities. It is morally wrong to turn it against them, for in the future they will not be willing to have tapers in with them.

Win-win for democracy? No.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:14 AM on October 2, 2006


Heywood Mogroot : "Taping in this context is an act of protection for the demonstators, intended to document abuse by authorities. It is morally wrong to turn it against them, for in the future they will not be willing to have tapers in with them."

I'm not quite following: so it's morally right for demonstrators to use evidence of police misaction, but it's morally wrong for police to use evidence of demonstrator misaction? Or is it that one should only be protected by the evidence that one provides oneself?

I tend to think of evidence as evidence for everyone, not some sort of private property. If the police have video evidence of themselves beating some poor guy up, I think they should be required to submit a copy to the courts, not allowed to hide it because it makes them look bad. The same with anyone else. That which proves innocence should prove innocence, that which proves guilt should prove guilt. Not "that which proves innocence should be used only to the extent that the owner of that evidence wants innocence proved, and that which proves guilt should be used only to the extent that the owner of that evidence wants guilt proved".

And, returning to a question posed upthread: since you are opposed to providing video evidence, what of oral evidence? Do you oppose the subpoena system?
posted by Bugbread at 9:29 AM on October 2, 2006


fine, we differ here. I'm just looking down the road, and the chilling effect on recording assemblies, and the chilling effect on speech this will have.

Again, IANAL, but it's my impression that things are rather assymetric for the State. I have no problem with this. Perhaps a private party should have greater power in compelling release of video tape. The State? I'm more on the fence here.

And, returning to a question posed upthread: since you are opposed to providing video evidence, what of oral evidence? Do you oppose the subpoena system?

This case has nothing to do with traditional methods of investigation. Video tape is different; it is recording more than just the events in question, allowing the authorities -- those who obtain it -- a free fishing expedition for whatever purposes they have.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:45 AM on October 2, 2006


I'm with you on the assymetry. Perhaps I just put a bit more stock into the tapers. The way I figure, 9 times out of 10, if there's a crime on your tape during a rally, it will be a crime by the state on the protesters (I'm not talking anarchist rallies, as I don't know shit about them, but protests in general). As such, you'd be a fool to stop taping rallies, since those tapes will help you far more often than they hurt you. Plus, I assume most tapers have the common sense to tape the parts where the police are doing something illegal, and not the parts where the protesters are doing something illegal. I mean, that's common sense: if you commit a crime, for god's sake, don't document it!

Regarding the "free fishing" difference with tape and testimony: good point. Hadn't really thought of that.
posted by Bugbread at 10:13 AM on October 2, 2006


This is totally retarded. It's his fucking tape! He shouldn't have to give it to anybody!

fkn government. Always stealin people's shit.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:06 PM on October 2, 2006


This is totally retarded. It's his fucking tape! He shouldn't have to give it to anybody!

It's evidence in a crime. What country do you live in?
posted by mkultra at 1:46 PM on October 2, 2006


It's evidence in a crime

forced disclosure of private video records of a demonstration arguably impinges on the rights surrounding free assembly. What country do you live in?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:34 PM on October 2, 2006


the facts are pretty clear in this case:

1) no police car was burned, no arson was attempted.
2) smoke bombs were tossed at the protest, but no reasonable person could consider tossing a smoke bomb on the ground the equivalent to an arson attempt.
3) the police car in question was not bought with federal money.
4) the grand jury isnt chartered to investigate the injured cop, its chartered for the car.
5) the federal grand jury is a way to get around the protections afforded to normal defendants.

conclusion: the feds are using really cracked out legal arguments in order to provide a means for law enforcement officials to harrass anarchists in SF, who they couldnt otherwise, legally harrass.
posted by mano at 5:13 PM on October 2, 2006


also, to all you people who are arguing that disclosing video is not a big deal, do you not realize that the burden is on you to demonstrate the necessity for disclosure? "because some government official said so" is not a reason. govt officials exceed their authority all the time, and they screw up and make bad decisions. people need to stand up to these bad decisions, otherwise there is no way to check the people in government from misrepresenting or abusing their own powers.

incidentally, josh wolf offered the tape for private viewing to the judge in the case. he claims it contains no evidence of (either) crime but he doesnt want to provide it to the police in a messed up political context where the feds just ride into town and start telling everyone what to do, especially in a context where journalists work as defacto police photographers..
posted by mano at 5:20 PM on October 2, 2006


Heywood Mogroot writes "forced disclosure of private video records of a demonstration arguably impinges on the rights surrounding free assembly. What country do you live in?"

Live police viewing of a demonstration also arguably impinges on the rights surrounding free assembly. Should police be allowed to view public assemblies? Should public assemblies be "no police zones" in order to prevent skittish people from avoiding them?

And I live in Japan.
posted by Bugbread at 6:11 PM on October 2, 2006


Mano, do you have cites for those facts that you stated? Other than from the "Free Josh Wolf" page, which doesn't seem to be the most unbiased of sources.
posted by antifuse at 7:37 AM on October 3, 2006


bugbread:

plenty of people can and do make the case (in court - you know, that thing we call a legal system?) that police involvement/presence/interference in peaceable first amendment activites constitutes a civil rights violation.

recently, given the whole facist climate and all, idiots like you bust out this ignorant idea that the cops should be able to do whatever they want, go wherever they want, for whatever reason. but thats not, at least not yet, how the law works.

cops are not allowed to follow people around *JUST BECAUSE* those folks are protesting. Incidentally, this right is further ensconced in SF where it is written into SF's own police videotaping policy. Of course, this doesnt apply to the protest in question, since it was unpermitted and since crimes were comitted... but its a FYI that you should not forget.

antifuse: i dont believe in unbiased sources.. or unbiased anything. and as far as sources are concerned, dont forget the best sources are going to be police and protesters, since they were actually present, and both groups are plenty biased. also, please note that proving that something didnt happen is harder than proving that it did. thus, people who think a police car was burned should ask themselves what the sources are on that (ie if a cop car actually burned, why wasnt it reported in the media).

nevertheless:

* no police car was burned, thus no arson occured.

* smoke bombs were tossed at the protest these are the alleged "arson" weapons.


* no reasonable person could consider tossing a smoke bomb on the ground the equivalent to an arson attempt. (that one is a duh). its hard to believe arson was attempted.

* the police car in question was not bought with federal money.

* the grand jury isnt chartered to investigate the injured cop, its chartered for the car.

* the federal grand jury is a way to get around the protections afforded to normal defendants.


* wolf argues that the videotape has no evidence of a crime on it, and offered to screen it for the judge to prove it, but tht judge refused... (this is in the court record)
posted by mano at 2:47 PM on October 3, 2006


yeah, living in a police state is no big deal wrt traditional/ideal american freedoms of assembly etc.

A subpoena to obtain evidence creates a police state? What?

While I think there's little to go on to have criminal charges to begin with, material evidence/witnesses have always been sought in trials without destroying the right to assemble.
posted by spaltavian at 6:48 PM on October 3, 2006


mano : "recently, given the whole facist climate and all, idiots like you bust out this ignorant idea that the cops should be able to do whatever they want, go wherever they want, for whatever reason. but thats not, at least not yet, how the law works."

Well, those idiots can't be too much like me, because I reject the idea that the cops should be able to do whatever they want, go wherever they want, for whatever reason. So perhaps it would be best phrased "Idiots who disagree with you bust out this ignorant idea that the cops should be able to do whatever they want, go wherever they want, for whatever reason."

mano : "cops are not allowed to follow people around *JUST BECAUSE* those folks are protesting."

True. But, conversely, police are not forbidden from areas with protests, either, are they? If you're a beat cop who works the area between 10th street and 15th street, and there is a protest in that area, are you forbidden from working your beat?

If so (and I truly doubt it), then it seems like protests would be ideal places for criminals to work: guaranteed cop free, and evidence of your crimes is also forbidden (according to some MeFites) to the courts. That would probably put as much pause into potential protesters as an overwhelming police presence (I, personally, would be hesitant to take part in a protest with a billion cops on horses glaring at me, but also at a protest where I knew that there would be no police anywhere to prevent criminals from preying on us protesters).

So, realistically (and I know MetaFilter abhors realism), protests can't really be "absolutely police free zones", because protesters need protection from criminals, but they can't be police-ridden zones either, because protesters need protection from the government and the police themselves. Logic would dictate that you'd have the same type of police presence as you would at any other populated event (international festivals, block parties, etc.); not so few that it allows/encourages crimes, but not so many that it makes people scared to participate in the protests.

Likewise, with evidence: asking for videotapes of protests "just to see if there are any crimes that maybe happened" would be seriously bad. But asking for videotapes of crimes that were known to happen in protests seems reasonable to me.

I apologize if I'm too centrist on the issue. I know MeFi generally likes people to take one extreme or another.

mano : "* wolf argues that the videotape has no evidence of a crime on it, and offered to screen it for the judge to prove it, but tht judge refused... (this is in the court record)"

That is the convincing argument. Saying "the police shouldn't have access to video evidence of a crime, ever, if the person who recorded it is a reporter" is silly. Saying "the police shouldn't have access to video which purportedly depicts a crime if the owner of the video maintains that there is no such evidence in the video, and has offered to show it to judge but been refused."
posted by Bugbread at 8:19 AM on October 4, 2006


bugbread, cops that work protests are always, always on overtime. they arent working "their beat". youre looking for technicalities here, but they are completely wrong...

and unnecessary. noone reasonable thinks cops are going to wait to be called to look after a protest when they know a bunch of antigovt protesters are gonna be in the streets ahead of time. of course they prepare. but of course, this preparation should (and usually fails) to balance the safety, needs, and rights of the protesters. example of illegal police intimidation and violence: FTAA miami 2003. example of good police behavior: critical mass san francisco (at least for the last 6 years).

also, you are totally ignoring the issue of jurisdiction here. CA has a right to shield its journalists. the feds dont have a right to try to get around that law UNLESS a federal law has been violated. in this case, by any stretch of the imagination, it hasnt, so josh wolf is leaning over backwards for the judge in even offering to screen the video.
posted by mano at 12:09 PM on October 4, 2006


Mano,

I didn't mean to ignore the jurisdiction issue. I meant to be arguing against some people's general arguments about the rights of the police to see copies of video depicting crimes. I don't mean to say that in this case it's justified (I may have expressed myself poorly before).

That is, some folks are saying that the police shouldn't have the right to see the evidence in this case. To be honest, I don't know enough about this case to make a judgement, but I can see convincing arguments on both sides (specifically, the "offered to show to judge" one tilts me towards "the police should not get a copy" side, but I am not a lawyer, so I don't know if the judge turned it down because viewing the tape would make it inadmissible, or some other legal reasons).

Other people are saying that police should never be able to see video of a protest, even if it had evidence of a crime, if it was taken by a journalist. Those are the people I'm disagreeing with.

mano : "noone reasonable thinks cops are going to wait to be called to look after a protest when they know a bunch of antigovt protesters are gonna be in the streets ahead of time. of course they prepare."

Ok, then, we're not in disagreement about this. My comments were directed at the idea that, for example, the problem with the police being able to see any video of a protest would be that it would inhibit people from participating, and therefore it shouldn't be legal. My argument was just that, if that's the meterstick we're using, then any police presence should be illegal, and that's silly. You say that no one reasonable would expect that, so my comments about that aren't directed at you, as you're reasonable. My comments were directed at the more unreasonable commenters.

And, I hope you understand, I'm also (I think) reasonable (though we may disagree on minor points), and while I say that, in general, it is not unreasonable for police to have access to video evidence of a crime, I am not therefore saying that they should have access to all video of any protests whatsoever, crime or no crime, nor am I saying by "some police should be present at large gatherings" that "mobs of police in riot gear should always be on site" or anything.
posted by Bugbread at 5:18 AM on October 5, 2006


« Older Shooting War: a graphic novel by Anthony Lappe and...  |  The cloud chamber may no longe... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments