A Florida activist was arrested Saturday after videotaping police officers and security guards in public.
James Cox was charged with obstructing police, even though the video clearly shows he was not obstructing.
He was also given a trespass warning banning him from the property for a year because he happened to be standing on private property when he was videotaping the officers.
The video shows he was arrested after he refused to provide his identification to the officer.
So the question boils down to whether or not he was actually trespassing.
Yes, he was standing on private property but this is an open-air commercial area with shops and restaurants that is open to the public.
And yes, at one point he was told to leave the property, but only because he was videotaping.
Do these security guards kick everybody out who happens to be videotaping?
This is an area in Ybor City, a tourist destination in Tampa known for its bustling nightlife. It is obvious the only reason the guards were harassing him in the first place was because he was videotaping the cops.
Cox said the reason he was standing on the steps leading to the business on that property – which was only about a few feet from the public sidewalk – was because he wanted to make it clear he was not trying to interfere with police.
“I didn’t want to get too close to them,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “I didn’t want them to think I was interfering.
“Besides, I thought it was pubic because people are coming and going without a problem.”
I would have stepped down onto the sidewalk the moment the guard began harassing me, just to shut him up.
At first, the guard told the cop that Cox was videotaping and the cop told the guard that Cox had the right to videotape, so at least they were aware of that.
The incident took place after police stopped a white pick-up truck in which a teenager hopped out of the passenger’s seat.
The teen appeared to be having some type of disagreement with the driver, who appeared to be the boy’s father.
At one point, police handcuffed the boy, but then they unhandcuffed him. The boy, however, hovered around arguing with police.
Cox then told the boy, “Go home, son. Go home.”
That prompted one of the officers to come over and demand his identification.
Cox refused to hand it over and was arrested.
Cox was with me in Miami last December when we tested out the photography police in front of federal buildings.