A video uploaded to YouTube this week shows a photographer in Pampa, Texas being detained for “suspicious activity” while legally filming a police stop from a public sidewalk.
The video begins by showing a Pampa police officer approaching a photographer as he attempts to test out a new camera.
As the officer begins asking personal questions, the photographer remains relatively tight lipped, opting to continue his legal activity.
Shortly after, as the traffic stop come to an end, the photographer is approached by a Deputy Stokes, who immediately attempts to confiscate all photography equipment for “evidence.”
Unable to provide which law allows for confiscation, Stokes, now clearly upset, resorts to assaulting the photographer.
Stokes continues by telling the photographer that his filming is a “violation” despite no law supporting his claim.
Attempting to get ID, Stokes continues to claim the legal authority to detain the photographer for filming despite the action being repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court.
“You can’t go around recording us!” Stokes incorrectly claims.
Interestingly, the mood of the encounter begins to shift as as the photographer mentions his intention to sue Stokes for assault. Stokes responds by completely changing his earlier statements, now threatening a subpoena instead of confiscation.
“Let me just explain to you my concerns,” Stokes says as he again attempts to stifle the photographer’s First Amendment. “My concern is this is not the first traffic stop that you’ve photographed tonight, it’s not the first one you’ve video-taped tonight. Your refusing to tell me where you’re from and post 9/11 that concerns me.”
While most photographers expect to be engaged while filming police in public, the issue arises when officers use threats and unjust detainment to curtail legal activity. Countless federal training manuals that paint photography as likely terrorism have only compounded the issue.
Just last May, a citizen journalist in Albany, New York was visited and questioned by a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and asked if he belonged to a “domestic terrorist group” for legally photographing buildings at the local police academy.
“It is personally insulting and offensive to me that I would be associated with the Sovereign Citizen movement merely for exercising my constitutional rights,” photographer Matthew Grunert told Storyleak.
The exhaustively used excuse of 9/11 rings hollow in light of terrorism statistics and facts. Just last year, President Obama waived a federal law designed to stop the US from arming terrorists in order to provide military support to the Al-Qaeda aligned “Syrian rebels.”
Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, who was supported by the Obama administration in 2011, told media that Al Qaeda members who admitted to killing US troops in Iraq were among his ranks. As expected, covert support for the group only increased.
Despite this, innocent Americans continued to be harassed, surveilled and scrutinized for completely legal activity.