By J. DeVoy
Around this time last year, large bands of police descended upon “Occupy” encampments from coast to coast, seeking to decamp the rebelling hipsters once and for all. What you may not know, though, is that the Los Angeles Police Department radically changed their press policy immediately before its efforts to disperse the movement: only members of the “official” press pool were allowed to report on the raid. (Source) Rogue journalists, as defined by the LAPD, would be arrested on sight.
Surely there was some kind of previous, quiet announcement of how to become a member of the official press pool so that bloggers, citizen journalists, and other non-traditional news sources wouldn’t (theoretically) be prejudiced, right? Apparently not:
[T]he day before [the raid], the LAPD had selected a handful of local news organizations and given them permission to report on the action from an embedded position. If you weren’t on the list, you weren’t a journalist. It was that simple.
NSFWCorp’s article (which is, by most standards, safe for work) draws the important parallel between the modern police state and prior repressive regimes around the globe. Political activists are detained with painful zipcord handcuffs, held for hours and even days, and even forced to sit in their own excrement. While Levine is not unbiased, his account requires little imagination to believe.
A year later, Levine is still being prosecuted for his crimes as not being a member of the official press pool. While California and Los Angeles fiscally burn, the LAPD seem content to play their fiddle for one man possessing the temerity to document their actions.
Of Course everyone thinks this must be unconstitutional, however; I know it is. Moreover; I know what I would do about it.
Strike that. I know what the Mainstream Media Should Do About THIS en masse. If the Media refuses to act, then screw them. We of the blogosphere will continue to report the news, and gain marketshare. The media can continue to move away from objective journalism and continue on “shilling” for the government and their advertisers.
It’s THAT simple.
There are marginal reasons why you’d want to something similar to this in very specific instances (hostage standoff, prevent beligerent responses in operations relying on surprise, etc.), but it sounds like it was horribly bungled here. In my (limited, non-expert or even well-educated opinion) what you do is, if someone is documenting it and they aren’t ‘approved’, you ask them politely to wait until the operation has been conducted to post anything. Give them a time they can post it without hurting the police, and I’d be willing to bet most people would agree to wait until the police had done their business to make a post. You do not arrest and handcuff journalists. You do not use force to conceal an operation. That’s just begging for trouble on all different angles.
The police shouldn’t be afraid of being watched, and that fear appears to be rearing its head with alarming frequency. The identity of specific policemen is frequently worth concealing, it can be necessary to delay news, but overall, the police need to be comfortable with transparency. Transparency means people will become comfortable with them in time- which makes it easier for them to do their job and enforce the law.
In truth, the police also need to become their own worst critics. They need to root out the bad eggs before anyone else even cares that they’re there. If they can do that, again- people will trust them more, and it’ll be a lot easier to do their job.
Sorry for the rant.
Defining Press back in the old days was easy–did you have a printing press and circulate current events. Ben Franklin didn’t work for a news organization, he was the news organization. Now, anyone with a computer (including smartphone) and internet connection can report on events. Even SCOTUSblog can’t seem to accredit itself to the Supreme Court as a member of the press: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/196619/scotusblog-tries-again-to-get-credentialed-to-cover-the-supreme-court/
Smells like VP discrimination. Actually, smells like a prior restraint. Is there a written and well defined policy or is it too vague such that it gives the officers the ability to act like an licensing commission (ala Bantam Books)? I suppose they could block *all* press for a short period in the interest of safety or evidence preservation. But selecting media–hum. That does not sound kosher for a few reasons. And we’re not even getting to the forum analysis (streets, sidewalks, parks–traditional public fora).
Justice Stewart notwithstanding, press freedom has always been an individual right. As William Rawle said, the freedom of speech and of the press are part of the same article. It is one right, not two.
“and even forced to sit in their own excrement.”
Sure, but what about AFTER they were taken out of the camps?
But seriously, there isn’t a single way in which this is actually Constitutional, but then again I’ve said that about a great many things these last 4 years or so, so I have little to no faith this gets fixed any time soon…
Scott: It would “get FIXED” (almost) IMMEDIATELY if the mainstream press stopped arguing who gets “official” credentials, and who does not, STOPPED KIKSSING LAPD ASS and instead bandED together FOR A MASSIVE LAWSUIT AGAINST LAPD AND THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES!
I keep hearing the same phrase mentioned, everyblog I go : It’s unconstitutional! It should be emblazoned on your flag. THAT would stir up the pot, I’m sure…
While I’ve read and enjoyed the US constitution (as I’ve read our own, which puts me in the 1-in-500,000 demographic down here), I understand the nuances of how it’s been interpreted over the decades have become more and more finely detailed.
So, granting that it’s a lifetime’s work properly understanding just one tiny part of the constitution, are all these people correct, when they call the kind of repressive governmental action described in the article unconstitutional?
And if they are, and what’s happened here does go against the spirit, if not the letter, of the constitution, why can’t something be done about it? At the least, that would show that there are concerned people taking action.
I guess another way of phrasing the question is, is the government permitted to do unconstitutional things?
Or are they hiding behind the complexity, knowing it will take too long to unravel before anyone can achieve some kind of legal action against them?
Or, and I hate to even ask this, is it that the actions taken *are* constitutional, they’re just not particularly well-thought-out?
Sorry for such a dumbarse question…
Read my comments in the first entry to this story.
A remedy to this police censorship of the news is very simple: a (small or large) number of the media need to form a group and file a Title 42 Section 1983 suit alleging the “Policy” of the LAPD and the City of Los Angeles violated their First Amendment Rights.
They need a lawyer and a determination to protect the rights of all journalists, not just the “favored few” the LAPD chooses because those “journalists” will report the news casting LAPD in a favorable light,
It only takes determination and a desire to “do the right thing.”
You have several nice points that I appreciate. First, it seems to me that part of your point is that contrary to popular belief, “unconstitutional” is not synonomous with “douchey.” I agree and appreciate that. Second, it seems to me that your point is that people use arcane nuances of constitutional to use the document to support their own beliefs, rather than apply the terms of the agreement with intellectual honesty. I agree with and appreciate that sentiment as well. Thid, I appreciate VERY much, that the rules of constitutional law are opaque and arcane to the average American. Sad.
So to try to reduce some of the arcane, tortured rules to something more common sense . . . .
It’s not okay for the government to stop you from publishing something, or to punish you for expressing a particular viewpoint. It is okay for them to punish you or stop you from doing something that is unsafe, even if that thing you are doing is speechor press or related to speech or press.
Here, having reporters on the scene is not unsafe. Clearly. The police are going to have other reporters on the scene. Rather, the government officials are picking among the permitted reporters. On what basis? Because they like some people more than others? Because they like their viewpoint? Because some are perceived as more safe than others? By what criteria?
The first amendment is sensitive to even the potential for abuse, especially when it comes to interfering with publishing before it happens. If there is no written police policy, thats going to be a problem. If there is a written policy and it leaves lots of room for discriminating on viewpoint, that’s going to be a problem too.
There’s plenty of more nuance, but does that make sense? You have good points so I’d be happy to unpack whatever.
Public Officials ALWAYS have, and ALWAYS will, infringe upon the rights of We the People because WE “interfere” with the free exercise of “Public Official Perogatives” (aka Abuse of Power)
Disagree in part. There are lots of legit reasons to infringe on the right to record police. There are lots of sham and bullshit reasons too. (See part two of this thingy I once wrote). For the most violations, I blame inadequate training, not malice–although they are not at all mutually exclusive.
Wow, thanks for explaining that so even I can understand it!
No, I guess my question/point was a bit too broad to answer all the aspects specifically. But since we’re all scrawling our intellectual graffiti on Marc’s back wall, the clarification about the first amendment in particular makes sense, thanks for putting it that way.
And as Roy said, people *can* raise a fuss if they want to… The question then becomes, will they be aware enough of the severity of the problem (in this particular case) to want to?
As an outsider, I’m somewhat surprised by most Americans’ understanding of the (maybe broader aspects of the) constitution. Even if they get it wrong (and from what you’re saying, and from what I see, they often do), they at least know about it! I doubt if you could find a single Australian walking the streets of any capital city who even knows IF we’ve got a constitution, let alone how any of it applies to them. I’m not being deliberately elitist, I only bought a copy a few years ago when we were going to rewrite the preamble to include the Aboriginals, and I realised I knew more about the US constitution than I did about my own!
But no-one you’d normally meet on the streets here would be able to tell you anything about it – how long it is, when it was written, how it affects taxes, government limitations, trade, or what the preamble says, etc. etc. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Based on what I read here and elsewhere, I’m starting to think it’s better to not know until you run up against it, than to misunderstand it and use it to promote your own views… Especially when I see how the Tea Party and extreme Right and religious seem to (ab)use it to their own horrific ends without actually understanding it.
What scares me about that is that so many Yanks (pardon my Australian) don’t seem to really understand the mindset of Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, et. al, especially regarding deism and theism (my own cause) and how carefully you need to keep things separate. And so darn many people seem willing to agree with the demagogues without understanding what the actual document says and why it says it! Or maybe they’re just the vocal minority…
Either way, I’m so glad I found this weblog and that I know enough to appreciate our own document for what it is and does. And I appreciate everyone’s patience with me!
I don’t think I said “can.” My point is: the media has a vested interest and an obligation within their capacity as the “Fourth Estate” to file and prosecute an action, all the way to the end.
It’s the “Right Thing to Do!”
Glad I could help on the 1A stuff.
We are not a people who, as a whole, pursue truth. Generally speaking, we value sincerity, appearances and not being a douche more than the truth.
The mindset of those old dead white guys is a subject for debate. I can’t really blame too many Americans for not knowing what those dead white guys thought when both sides at the Supreme Court use the spin they do. Who can the average American trust to give them a straight story on such arcane stuff? And I say this as someone who likes reading stuff by those dead white guys and does so a lot.
Last, I actually like some things about the Tea Party :) –not everything, but I think sometiems it’s easy for media (institutional and blog-type) to take a piss on them now and then in an unfair way. That’s okay. But these are sometimes ad hominem fallacies that point at traits, rather than criticize arguments–a number of which are legit, even where I disagree with them.
“It is okay for them to punish you or stop you from doing something that is unsafe, even if that thing you are doing is speechor press or related to speech or press.”
This is fundamentally the action of a police state. The police always say, their inhibition of free speech, as an act of prior restraint, is in the public interest, to protect the public from the expression of “unsafe” ideas that otherwise might lead the public to harm.
I KNOW this from practical experience gained in the last six years.
Okay. Here are two hypotheticals.
Hypothetical me wants to take video of an ongoing pursuit of armed felons. It’s hell of good press and I am doing so because I believe that this kind of documentation and publication will bring awareness to the community about police abuses.
There is a live firefight. This is happening in a park. Police tell me to get the fuck down. I have a first amendment interest to gather information–particularly in a park. That right is benig infringed. The police can tell me to get the fuck down and get the fuck away. If I do not, they can do lots of other seizure stuff to my person and effects (see the 4A). And that’s all lawful. Although my first amendment interest and rights would be curbed, the police activity (for the purposes of this hypothetical) has nothing to do with suppressing my viewopoint. It’s about their safety and my safety and the safety of people in general.
Hypothetical me wants to document police activity in public after people are shot in the park and dead. Police put up yellow tape and tell no one to cross. The distance is reasonable and so is the duration. The purpose is to preserve evidence to put dirtbag murderers in prison in our system of justice. If people cross the line, t could contaminate the scene or otherwise affect the evidence in a bad way.
If I cross the tape, police will (justifiably) arrest me for interfering with their investigation–not to suppress my ideas, but to ensure the prosecution can do its job.
In both of these scenarios, we can tweak things a bit and create situations where it IS about suppressing the peolpe. I am right with you. But that is not universally the case.
In my view, it’s important for right to record activists to keep that in mind. Otherwise you’re crazy.
I don’t engage in speculation; my writing is based on (1) practical experience with first amendment protest, (2) arrests, (3) surviving criminal prosecutions, and (4) prosecuting the police for civil right violations.
Google “Heckler’s Veto” and “Civil Rights.”
A public speaker speaks and people riot; maybe people, cops are injured.
Is the speaker guilty of inciting a riot? Maybe, maybe not.
Read the case law on this point. The police will always say: “We need to protect public safety. Therefore; the “controversial” public speaker (who is so detested, the public will riot whenever he speaks) must be silent.”
In this case the police want to decide who can report the news. Therefore; they pick reporters who are “Pro-Police” or “Anti- Occupy LA.” That way they get the “spin” on the story they want.
If you think the police act “in good faith” on these kinds of issues, you are sadly misinformed.
Google “Cointelpro.” This kind of conduct still goes on, the only difference is : the police are highly skilled in hiding it.
Roy, regarding your hypothetical street-corner speaker : That’s actually an interesting question (for me, anyway).
At first, my only question was, is he breaking the law? If he is, then no matter what he’s selling, he shouldn’t be doing it, regardless of whether we agree that the particular law he’s breaking is “good” or “bad”. I’m thinking here of public safety, like obstructing traffic, noise laws, that kind of thing.
But if the law he’s breaking is related to the content of his speech, then I have a problem. *But I need to know what it is he’s saying* before I’d decide whether or not he’s got a right to say it.
For example, if he’s telling people a truth they don’t already know, then shutting him up solely because of that is surely indicative of a police state mentality (to my mind).
But if he’s just spouting religious BS, or “tin foil hat” beliefs, or if he’s just stirring people up for shits and giggles – in other words, he’s deliberately lying and misinforming people – then of course I believe he should be shut down, period.
But then I realised that’s the bit about the free speech statutes that I have such difficulty understanding.
It’s not that if I disagree with your point of view, I don’t think you have a right to speak – that’s not it at all. Quite the opposite, in fact!
It’s only if what you’re saying is provably and demonstrably wrong, and you’re aware that it’s wrong, but you persist in telling people that untruth anyway, that I think you should be shut down.
That’s what *I* would consider “free speech” – the right to say anything that’s true, regardless of whether or not it’s “nice” or “safe for work” or whatever. But that presupposes that I know ahead of time whether what he’s saying is factual or not.
But that’s obviously not the way the framers of the constitution thought. The first question is, how do I know if it’s true or not? I can only figure that out *after* he’s said it!
I guess the next best way to approach this would be to say, if the speaker has been informed that what he’s saying is false, and it’s proven beyond reasonable doubt, then the next time he stands up on a soap box to say the same thing he should be shut down, but then how do I know he’s going to say the same thing?
So what this boils down to, is that you have to let him say whatever he likes, whether or not it’s true, and whether or not he knows it’s bulldust. And that’s where it all goes horribly wrong, because stupid people listen and believe anything and everything they agree with, and by the time the speech is over, he’s converted more morons to his perverted cause.
I never tried figuring that all out logically before now. Sad, isn’t it?
Please, research “heckler’s veto.” Then click here:
I KNOW what I’m talking about. The “First Amendment” is not some theoretical “right” to speak your mind, or express some opinion.
It was THE mechanism which started the American Revolution. It was THE mechanism for the advancement of the Civil Rights Movement, and for ending the Vietnam War.
It is THE mechanism I’ve employed for challenging Pima County Open Border Policy, or “the intentional aiding and abetting, enticing and inviting or otherwise inviting in Mexican Ilegals for economic and political exploitation.”
Do a little research. The First Amendment is MORE powerful than an atomic bomb.
Frankly, YOU just don’t “get it!”