Monday, September 1, 2008

I-Witness Video Battles Police State Tactics

I am falling in love with this group. I-Witness Video uses video to protect civil liberties. They probe police actions at First Amendment events like peaceful protests by videotaping what the police are up to at these events. They build a library of these videos, some of which are submitted by amateur videographers, in order to use them as evidence at trials to overturn bogus charges. Often it would seem that these charges are a blatant attempt by police to eliminate protests at events like political conventions.

Their work has largely involved the New York City Police Department which would seem to be making every possible effort to become an exceedingly dangerous fascist organization bent on squashing any form of dissent in New York City. I used to live there and I know there were some serious problems with abuses by the police. But over the past ten years, boy it has just become a sad joke of a department. It's shocking. It makes Los Angeles look like a bastion of free expression.

I-Witness Video has had huge success in turning its video against the police in order to get hundreds of charges dropped. It has exposed conspiracies within the NYPD to lie and make false charges. The group appears to have been involved in the shocking and illegal police raids in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area aimed at squashing any peaceful protests around the Republican National Convention. It is obvious that the St. Paul police do not want these people getting evidence that can be used aganst the department. These people at I-Witness are simply using video like nobody's business. They've got it right and their work is hugely important.

Here is something I found printed in one of the entries on their blog:

The rights of photographers under the Constitution are expressed in sparklingly clear language in a legal memorandum on the "Rights of Journalists on Public Streets" which is available on the website of the National Press Photographers Association. I will now quote liberally from this very helpful document.

In general, the right to take photographs on the street is the same for members of the public as it is for journalists. So, if you're a member of the public, rather than a journalist, most of this applies to you too.

Although not unlimited, the media [and the public] enjoys a broad right of access under the First Amendment to photograph in public places such as streets and sidewalks. These rights are rooted in the First Amendment's strong protection of speech within "public forums." A "public forum" refers to a public place historically associated with free expression. The most commonly recognized examples include streets, sidewalks and parks. Within these areas, the government's ability to limit the public's speech is extremely limited.
This is very useful information for anyone with a camera. Go I-Witness Video! You people kick serious ass.

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