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The Health Care Law was a BFD (just ask your local Tea Party if you don't think so). When the Department of Justice changed its stance a year ago from defending the Defense of Marriage Act to claiming that it was unconstitutional -- that was a pretty BFD too.

Now the DoJ has taken another BFD position. In a brief supporting the right of a citizen to video the police performing their public duties, Department of Justice lawyers wrote:

The right to record police officers while performing duties in a public place as well as the right to be protected from the warrantless seizure and destruction of those recordings, are not only required by the Constitution... They are consistent with our fundamental notions of liberty, promote the accountability of our governmental officers, and instill public confidence in the police officers who serve us daily.

The ACLU believes this is the first time the DoJ has taken such a stance:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, which is representing the plaintiff, Christopher Sharp, said it believes this is the first time the Department of Justice has weighed in on the topic of recording police.

This initiative on the part of the Department of Justice comes after a First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling a few months ago protecting the right of citizens to videotape police. From the decision itself, via Universal Hub:

The First Amendment issue here is, as the parties frame it, fairly narrow: is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative... As the Supreme Court has observed, "the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw." ...

Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting "the free discussion of governmental affairs."

Rulings like that, and supporting briefs by the Department of Justice, do little in the short term to stop things like this next video shows. Here, an Occupy Oaklander who is attempting to video or take a picture of the Oakland Police is, for no apparent reason other than spite, arrested and his camera seized. This took place about a week ago.

Of course, someone else was videotaping the entire Keystone Kops act!

Still, videos like this, newfound encouragement from the Department of Justice, and continued total unreasonableness on the part of police (such as was shown in a diary yesterday containing a video of a Deputy cold-decking a mentally ill woman), will hopefully result in rulings in other Circuits and a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court affirming this now-more-than-ever-important right in the not too distant future.

Originally posted to jpmassar on Thu Jan 12, 2012 at 02:41 PM PST.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, SFKossacks, Progressive Policy Zone, and Good News.

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