A New Hampshire man was arrested in Massachusetts Thursday for attempting to video record a public auction inside a public building after officials hung up a makeshift sign banning videography.
Ian Bernard, who is better known as Ian Freeman because he is part of the Free State Project, was charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to turn off his camera in accordance with the printout that was hastily taped on a wall to prevent people from documenting the auction.
As officers moved into to arrest him, Freeman reminded them of the landmark Glik decision, which also took place in Massachusetts in 2011 that states “a citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”
The decision does not state whether the inside of a government building would be considered public space, but we know it will never be considered private space.
Freeman was held for almost six hours before he was released. It is obvious from the video his actions did not constitute the definition of disorderly conduct under Massachusetts law.
The defendant is charged with disorderly conduct. In order to prove the defendant guilty of this offense, the Commonwealth must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt:
First: The Commonwealth must prove that the defendant involved himself (herself) in at least one of the following actions: he (she) either engaged in fighting or threatening, or engaged in violent or tumultuous behavior or created a hazardous or physically offensive condition by an act that served no legitimate purpose of the defendant’s;
Second: The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s actions were reasonably likely to affect the public; and
Third: The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant either intended to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly created a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.
Officials said the ban on videography was put in place to prevent protesters from disrupting the auction, specifically over the sale of a property that was seized from a man after he failed to pay taxes on it.
Although the auction was advertised as open to the public, Palmer officials ended up banning anybody who wasn’t a qualified buyer from entering, including the mainstream media.
According to The Republican, whose reporter was forced to remain outside while government officials conducted their business inside:
Town Manager Charles T. Blanchard said lawyer Peter Brown, who is involved in the tax taking, suggested a policy be in place to prevent the use of video cameras. No specific law was cited by Blanchard regarding the restriction on attendance, and banning of video cameras. Still photography was allowed in the building.
Blanchard said he felt the actions were necessary because the protesters were there “to intimidate prospective bidders.” He said that according to Brown, a public auction is not a public meeting, and attendance could be limited to qualified bidders only.
“Their goal was to disrupt it,” Blanchard said about the protesters.
Blanchard said he concluded that videotaping needed to be banned because he was told Noone’s supporters were “sticking cameras in people’s faces” last year. Blanchard said he never saw the video and just heard about it.
Freeman and a couple of his friends were allowed to video record a public auction last year inside the Palmer Town Building as you can see below.
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