ACLU Looking Into Police Conduct at Weekend Tea Party Rally

The organization said it will be probing the events on Boston Common this weekend.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is investigating the conduct of Boston police following the depicting an officer with his hand on the neck of a protester at a Tea Party rally on the Boston Common over the weekend.

The photos, shot by 22-year-old UMass Boston student Paul Weiskel, also show of them, even though the First Amendment grants citizens the right to do so.

A video clip of the incident can be viewed here.

"The ACLU of Massachusetts takes seriously the First Amendment freedoms of everyone in the Commonwealth, so it is carefully reviewing the police department's conduct during the Tea Party rally at the Boston Common on April 15,” said Matthew Segal, legal director for the Massachusetts chapter of the ACLU, in a press release. “The First Amendment protects the right of Tea Party activists to demonstrate, the right of peaceful counter-demonstrators to speak up without undue police interference, and the right of citizens to photograph and film police encounters with citizens. We are investigating whether the police properly respected those important rights during the April 15 rally, and we are pleased to read that the Boston Police Department is undertaking its own investigation.”

Police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll told various Boston media outlets this week that police are looking into the matter via there own investigation.

Segal also addressed statements made by Driscoll, implying citizens with cell phone cameras are “assaulting” police officers.

"But, even as the police investigation gets underway, a police spokeswoman has already claimed that officers are "getting assaulted" by people holding cameras. If that claim is meant to imply that a Boston police officer was assaulted by those who photographed the officer with his hand on a counter-demonstrator's neck, it appears that the BPD has predetermined its conclusion,” Segal said in the press release. “The ACLU of Massachusetts, however, will form a conclusion about what happened only after it has gathered more information. Our investigation will seek to determine if additional clarification is needed—following a landmark federal appeals court ruling last August, and the City of Boston's recent, related $170,000 settlement—to ensure that everyone understands it is not illegal to openly record the police."

Click here for details of the ACLU’s involvement with the case of Simon Glik, who was arrested for filming police in 2007, and charged with “illegal wiretapping.” Glik eventually prevailed in Federal circuit court.

Jan Paulsen April 21, 2012 at 02:20 PM
I too have had police tell me to not take pictures during an arrest at my building a couple of years ago. I continued filming in spite of that. After all, I live here, and what goes on in this building concerns me. Actually, I feel the same way about "my city" and "my country" as well. This has to be a first amendment issue... How does one "assault" someone with a camera, anyway?
Andrew Jeromski April 22, 2012 at 12:23 PM
@Jan: In my mind, it is absolutely a First Amendment issue. And as far as assaulting someone with a camera, I think the sentence makes more sense written as "annoying" someone with a camera.


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