For the third time in less than a year, Austin police arrested photo activist Antonio Buehler early this morning for video recording them in public.
The arresting officer was none other than Pat Oborski, the cop who arrested him just hours into New Year’s Day when Buehler video recorded him being abusive to a DUI suspect.
That arrest prompted Buehler to launch Peaceful Streets Project, an organization where he and fellow members video record cops in public as they interact with citizens, which led to his second arrest last month.
In his latest arrest, Buehler and fellow activist Sarah Dickerson were standing 30 feet from police as they were conducting a DUI stop, according to a Peaceful Streets press release posted on Facebook.
Oborski shined a light in Buehler’s face and ordered him to back up, which Buehler did.
But other officers ordered him to keep backing up, which he apparently did, until he was arrested.
Police confiscated both cameras, apparently as evidence, which means they will probably not be returned any time soon. As of this writing, both remain in jail but are expected to be released soon.
According to the press release:
At approximately 2am this morning, Antonio Buehler and Sarah Dickerson were arrested by APD for witnessing an arrest.
This, after a night on 6th St. where APD had followed and filmed Peaceful Streets Project members (PSPers) filming police. PSPers noted APD now has some rather expensive cameras and are spending a lot of resources witnessing PSPers witnessing them.
Buehler’s attorney, Joe James Sawyer, said 3 1/2 weeks ago following the 2nd arrest of Buehler for filming police that “APD is on the losing end of the wrong fight. This is the beginning of a real war, and it’s one they are going to lose. The Supreme Court of the United States has spoken to this…the People have a right to watch.”
The arrest took place at 1219 W. 6th St. near Pressler after Peaceful Streets Project members pulled their car over to witness a DWI stop. They were approximately 30′ away from the detention when none-other-than Officer Oborski (the arresting officer of Buehler last New Year’s Eve-photo attached, taken by Buehler recently) shined a flashlight in Buehler’s face, yelling, “Mr. Buehler, back up!”
Buehler asked, “how far?” but Oborski didn’t respond. Buehler asked a second time, “how far?” while already backing up, yet still Oborski wouldn’t respond. By this time, Buehler and Dickerson were 40′ away.
Then Officer Johnson stepped in and repeated the “back up” command, to which Buehler said “how far?” Buehler again moved back another 10′ but Johnson told him to “move over there or leave.” He motioned to the other side of the police vehicle, putting him CLOSER to the detention – an illogical command. Buehler continued to protest this illogical issue, while backing up further, saying that he wasn’t interfering and was complying with orders to move AWAY from the scene.
Johnson said again, “move over there (closer to the detention) or leave” at which point both PSPers were nearly 60′ away, and Buehler responded, “fine, I’m leaving,” as he proceeded to walk away. It was this point that Johnson and Officer Holmes announced they would be arrested.
Holmes then walked Buehler within a few feet of the detention to proceed to the APD vehicle, belying the notion that getting too close to the scene puts anyone in jeopardy.
Both cameras were confiscated on scene, and not checked in with them as personal property at the jail…meaning they won’t be returned to arrestees and it wouldn’t be surprising, based on past history, if this video were to be erased/destroyed.
Activists were alerted immediately to the arrests as Buehler placed a call to the Lone Star Liberty Bell network.
APD continues to harass people who are peacefully filming even after issuing new guidelines which were obviously being respected by PSPers…at no point did they violate the law as they complied with orders – or the logical ones being given. This is merely an intimidation tactic, intending to chill our 1st amendment rights to witness public servants in the line of duty.
Austin Police Accountability Coalition has been calling on APD to implement a real video policy, modeled on Washington DC’s concise policy (attached). It says, in part, that police are not to “(i)n any way threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording members’ enforcement activities.” And as Buehler continued to ask questions about the appropriate place to witness the arrest, the DC policy goes on to note this is not a justification for arrest (in accordance with Supreme Court ruling). The policy says officers “are reminded that there is no justification for ordering a person to stop … unless the member reasonably suspects that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit any crime.”
Filming police is NOT a crime.
Just this week, another Austin photo activist was convicted for failing to comply when ordered by a cop to back up, even though the video shows he was not interfering.
Please send stories, tips and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
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