June 10th, 2013

Man Arrested for Video Recording Inside Government Building Wins $5,000 Settlement 47

By Carlos Miller

 

After hanging up a makeshift sign banning videography of a public auction inside a Massachusetts town hall last year, then arresting a man who dared go against their wishes, Palmer town officials were forced to dish out a $5,000 settlement to the man last week.

Ian Bernard, better known as Ian Freeman of the Free State Project, said he received over $3,000 of that settlement with the rest going to the ACLU of Massachusetts, who helped secure it.

The settlement once again proves that government officials don’t have the right to make up laws as they go, especially when it comes to public meetings or events.

In this case, Palmer town officials organized an auction and advertised it as being open to the public.

But on the day of the auction, they restricted anybody but qualified buyers from entering.  They even banned the local media from entering, who did its diligence by remaining outside, even though this was a government-sponsored event.

But Freeman wasn’t about to bow down to makeshift signs or laws as you can see in the above video, which is what got him arrested.

Freeman provides more details of the settlement here.

Ian Freeman

Ian Freeman during an unrelated activism project


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  • Dan Matthews

    EXCELLENT!!
    The officer was only doing as he was told. The higher up’s, including the DA are responsible!

    CONGRATULATIONS!!

    • GeneralInjustice

      So were the nazis

      • Dan Matthews

        I think the Nazis would have just beat him senseless.
        Not a dictatorship here.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002329011677 Jaysin R Clifton

      they should protect the people from all enemies even the domestic ones

      • Dan Matthews

        That’s like saying they should arrest the “higher ups” for putting the sign up, provided they knew it was illegal.
        I think, right or wrong, it is debatable.
        CONGRATULATIONS to this young man just the same.
        He should send the municipality a “Thank You” note for providing him a guaranteed opportunity to make $5,000

        • Difdi

          They should certainly have refused to obey unlawful orders. They should have pointed out the illegal nature of the orders to the higher ups. I don’t know if a town police officer has the authority to arrest a town official for the violation the sign and orders represented, but it’s possible that the officers should have done so.

          • Dan Matthews

            I doubt the DA would bring charges. Also seems to, once again, point to the DA as the one who pulls the strings.
            Just an observation.

          • Difdi

            Whether the DA brings charges or not, an arrest leaves an official record. In the age of the internet, even an expunged record is never truly gone.

      • Dan Matthews

        Does that mean he should arrest himself?

        • Difdi

          The proper term is ‘turning himself in’.

    • Difster

      The cop obeying obviously unlawful orders was just as guilty.

      • Dan Matthews

        In any employment situation, very few people will act contrary to how their management tells them to act, especially if, from a legal standpoint, they are immune.
        For those that do, great job, hope you can find another.
        Not good, but pretty much reality.

        • FUCKUPIG

          Dan, if that cop would have said no because he was violating this mans rights, not only would he have won an even bigger settlement, but he would have gotten his job back with immunity, and guaranteed bumps in rank. He would have been highly protected within his own system, and highly respected by THE PEOPLE !

          • Dan Matthews

            Not familiar with those processes, but, anything is possible.
            For all the LEO knew, the sign was enough to say he had to enforce the rule(?).
            I still give credit for the young man’s efforts and wonder if the town attorney is looking into it to find another way to ban photography, not necessarily legal.
            I think that if it had not been a rule and arrest from above, the charges, knowingly false(?) would have been dropped. My guess only.

          • Difdi

            Supposedly, law enforcement officers are trusted with the authority they have because they are highly trained professionals. Such a professional would reasonably know full well that that sign was BS. Such a professional would be at least as capable of recognizing an unlawful order as the average citizen is after doing a little Wikipedia research.

            Just following orders isn’t a valid defense.

          • Dan Matthews

            Something tells me the DA is not about to charge him with anything and doesn’t some kind of immunity for the LEO come into play anyway?

          • Difdi

            LEOs have qualified immunity to civil penalties for lawful actions in the line of duty. So if an officer needs to tackle someone who is drunk and belligerent, any injury that person suffers due to the officer’s act in the line of duty cannot be used to sue the officer.

            But qualified immunity isn’t absolute. If someone can prove that the officer’s action was against the law, department regulations or excessive/unnecessary, the qualified immunity can be stripped by the court. A good example would be the above example, but the officer just suddenly charges into a crowded sidewalk and tackles a random person for no reason. Another example that qualified immunity would not apply to would be if the officer saw someone staggering around drunk and shouting (but otherwise nonthreatening) and simply drew his sidearm and opened fire without a word.

          • Proud GrandPa

            I have found that after we’ve won civil rights cases enough times, that police and DAs become our best advocates within the system. I agree with your assessment of how this might have played out were the local cops aware of the law. Now they are.
            .
            Also I appreciate your post which contained no foul language and was intelligent and articulate. Well done this post.

        • bj

          And that makes them cowards.

          • Dan Matthews

            I don’t think it makes them cowards as much as it makes them act as “Rights Violators” but it may depend on one’s definition of the word “coward.”

      • rick

        Application of the law can become pretty nuanced after some point. That is why we have court systems to argue out these differences.
        For the cop to act in an “obvious unlawful” manner he would have to know precise facts about the auction beforehand, open auction v qualified buyers v closed to media, etc.

      • jefftav

        I hate cops, but you can’t say for sure that the cop wasn’t just an idiot.

    • bj

      The cop swore an oath to the constitution, not his boss/superior. Don’t make excuses for him

      • Dan Matthews

        Don’t make it personal and is anyone sure he swore an oath to the Constitution?
        I thought not.

        • bj

          I’m not sure what you mean by ‘personal’.Anyway, what’s important is that the Free Keene movement had a win and the oath breaker was exposed in court. Hopefully the cop has learnt from this and will change his ways because next time he may not enjoy immunity.

          • Dan Matthews

            I think he will do what the higher ups expect him to do.
            Don’t infer that I am making excuses for him.

          • bj

            If you’re offended by others assessment of your opinion then you need to toughen up. Is that personal enough for you? Now, fuck off, I’ve got no interest in conversing with you any further on irrelevant matters, I’ve already wasted enough time dealing with your insecurities.

          • Dan Matthews

            Hmmm, I think you should go back on your meds.

  • FUCKUPIG

    Outstanding Ian. We all knew you would collect on that one. Though my name is FUCKUPIG, that name reaches out to those courts and government buildings too. Those silly assholes actually thought they could do what they were doing. Carlos, now don’t you wish that you didn’t let that skinny dumb sheriff run you out like he did ? You would be a little richer now too.

    IAN,….I hope you head back into that building with your camera IMMEDIATELY !

  • steveo

    BS… This is trespassing. Govt can set up areas, secure areas where people cannot go. Ian would never get away with this in NY or like a law and order state like Texas. Especially in a place like a public town hall.

    • Dan Matthews

      Interesting, I guess that is why we need lawyers.

    • Dan Matthews

      I don’t see where Trespassing comes into play, Steveo.
      Are you thinking about the lady taking pictures of the police cars?

      • steveo

        sorry, I guess I should alert people to sarcasm. Sarcasm is “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt.” Maybe my comment wasn’t bitter, enough.

        • Dan Matthews

          I bet you are a W.C. Fields fan as well. Sarcastic humor is great, just need to know where it may come from.

          • Boomer

            Blonde lady: Are you a man?
            W. C. Field: We’ll, I’ve been called other things.

          • Dan Matthews

            W.C. Fields to his young son: “Don’t tell me that I don’t love you or smack you!”

        • FUCKUPIG

          Steveo I got it. LOL

    • Difdi

      Apparently it was not trespassing. Governments have effectively unlimited resources when it comes to whether or not to pursue a lawsuit to the end, and they chose to settle instead. That’s pretty telling.

      • steveo

        In one of my favorite lawyer movies, “The Verdict”, Jack Warden tells Paul Neuman, “listen, when the other side gives you the money, that means you won.”

    • Freedom_Fighter_of_America

      If it’s open to the public, you can not ban a class of people that you find unsavory to your liking. You don’t get to shield yourself from public scrutiny when you are a public official just because you don’t want to be cast in a bad light. You can not trespass on public property. It’s your property along with everyone elses. If you can see it where you have a legal right to be, you can film it. And you can’t close a PUBLIC auction from the general public to only “qualified” buyers. These types of government auctions have to be made available to everyone.

      • Difdi

        Well, yes and no. You can ban all sorts of things. A “no shirt, no shoes, no entry” sign would be a good example. Another possibility would be refusing entry to anyone not a resident (i.e., taxpayer) of the town.

        But refusing entry to anyone with skin darker than a paint chip on a wall wouldn’t fly. Neither would picking out those exercising a constitutional right for exclusion while allowing those not exercising that right free access.

        • Dan Matthews

          Probably a difference between a sign going up on public/municipal property and a sign going up on public/private property such as a restaurant.

        • Freedom_Fighter_of_America

          They can not ban someone who is not a resident either. That is not their job and is outside their authority.

          • Difdi

            Yes, they absolutely can, if the thing they are restricting to taxpayers is paid for with those town taxes.

          • Freedom_Fighter_of_America

            I don’t know where you got that notion, but no, they can not restrict public buildings to taxpayers of that city only. Many people don’t pay property tax, renters, people living with relatives, etc etc. They absolutely can not restrict public places based on if you are a resident of that town. Public is Public. Even in instances of Libraries. They can’t ban anyone from the building who is not a bona fide resident. They can limit borrowing privileges to those who are residents, but it’s a public building, they can’t ban out of towners from entering and browsing and reading while there. That would also be like banning homeless people from coming into a public building to gather information or protest their treatment by the city officials. They don’t pay taxes so they can’t have access to public buildings. In the case of a Public Auction, anyone can go, The people who are interested in looking at it have a right to see whether or not they want to buy it. They have a right to be there if it is open to the public to view. You are sadly mis-informed.

      • steveo

        Not according to a lot of commentators on this blog. If govt puts up a sign, that means you are trespassing.

  • THOMAS MEREDITH DUMB ASS COP

    THIS IS A START. MANY MORE WINS FOR PEOPLE SECURING THEIR 1ST AMMENDMENT RIGHTS.

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