By 2019, more than 81% of Americans owned a smartphone, as compared to 35% in 2011. This has given rise to “citizen journalists” who record and disseminate videos of police officers performing their duties in public. Does the First Amendment protect them, or can the state prohibit the recording of police activity?
Protesters in Tennessee charged with rioting, assaulting a police officer, or vandalizing state property will now face greater fines and longer prison sentences, following a new bill signed into law on August 18th by Governor Bill Lee.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota, along with law firm Fish & Richardson, has filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of four protesters against the City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Police Chief, the head of the police officer’s union, and others.
“The DEA’s narcotics interdiction tactics are not appropriate measures to address the limited violence that has taken place over the past few days or to monitor peaceful protests,” the letter said. “The expansion of the DEA’s law enforcement authority, including the use of ‘covert surveillance’ and collection of intelligence, is unwarranted and antithetical to the American people’s right to peacefully assemble and to exercise their Constitutional rights without undue Intrusion.”
The complaint cites six incidents of arrests, 14 incidents of the use of physical force, five incidents of the use of chemical agents, and five incidents of threatening language and gestures, made by police officers against reporters, often without warning.
Journalists have long understood the risks involved in covering protests, but the events of the past weekend point to a worrisome shift: journalists are not only finding themselves caught in the middle of violence; they are increasingly becoming targets.