In a shocking display of police state tactics, an Ohio Congressman banned and had cameras confiscated from individuals attending his town hall meeting.
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) allegedly had signs placed in front of the venue banning cameras. After some attendees failed to obey the signs, police officers went through the audience to take them away.
The story was first brought to my attention by Carlos Miller at Photography is Not a Crime. (Click the link to see the crime happen.)
The amature videographers asserted their rights to the cops, but to no avail. An officer told one of the individuals the ban was “to protect the constituents.” The videographer stood his ground saying, “I’m well within my rights” after being asked “Are we gonna do this easy way? Or the hard way?” After protesting a few seconds more, the camera was stolen by the officer.
The officer then walked over to another person with a camera and attempted to steal it as well. “It’s not against the law to film this,” she said. “Yes it is,” the officer replied. “That’s what I’ve been told.”
Why should there be a “hard way?”
The officers were carrying out an unlawful order, committing armed robbery, clearly violating the Fourth Amendment. For those who need a refresher on that amendment, it reads as follows:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The property of these citizens was clearly taken without a warrant. And, since the officers had guns, it makes it armed robbery. Another appalling fact is that the officer thought there was a law against recording a public meeting.
Citizens have a right to record public officials in a public place in a public meeting. Not only were the First and Fourth Amendments of these people violated, but the police action was illegal according to Ohio Sunshine Laws:
Audio and video recording of a public meeting cannot be prohibited, but public bodies are permitted to establish reasonable rules regulating the use of recording equipment, such as requiring equipment to be silent, unobtrusive, self-contained, and self-powered to limit interference with the ability of others to hear, see, and participate in the meeting.
What’s even more shocking is that a google search of the topic shows no mainstream media coverge even though two television cameras were present. Not one of the three television stations has the story on their webiste.
However, that hasn’t stopped the news and criticism. The videos of the incident has gone viral across the internet. Disgruntled constituents and non-constituents alike have taken Mr. Chabot to task for his actions on his multiple Facebook accounts. However, some have been taken down. Even I took the chance to chastise the politician. “Republicans usually argue for open government. This, sir, is a departure from that stance.”
Rep. Chabot and the officers should be brought up on civil rights violations as well as armed robbery and violation of the Open Meetings Act.
Kudos go to the man and woman who stood up for their rights.
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