“Turn your phone off and walk away.”
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Nyle Fort, a research assistant at Princeton University, was walking home when a voice from a megaphone boomed out “Stop running or I’m going to shoot you!” The threat came from an unmarked police car, according to Fort:
“my heart stopped. i turned around and saw a black boy, who shared my complexion and hairstyle, running from the car, and 3-4 other white male police officers. after tackling him to the ground and calling him a “dirty motherfucker,” they pulled what looked (and smelled) like a bag of weed out his back pocket.”
Fort starting taking video as the boy was being forced into a police car. When the officers noticed Fort recording they immediately approached him. Ironically, the first officer to confront Fort asks “Can I help you with something?” before threatening to arrest him and lock him in a jail cell.
“You know you can get locked up. You’re impeding an investigation. Turn your phone off and walk away.”
A second officer also threatened to arrest Fort, asking “You want to be part of the investigation?” Of course, the officers have no lawful ability to arrest Fort, as Photography Is Not A Crime. Fort, knowing the law, asserted his right to record, saying “This is within my rights. I know my rights.” A third officer warned Fort to stay a “Stay a safe distance back,” meaning “Don’t get close enough to capture damning audio or video of us abusing a suspect.”
A final word from Fort: “As I stood there and filmed, I couldn’t help but think of Michael Brown, of Eric Garner and of the nearly 1 million black bodies currently locked up in cages all over this country. I mourn for this brother, my brother, who today become another victim of the war on drugs, of the prison industrial-complex.”
For news tips on aerial photography and drones, contact Andrew Meyer, PINAC’s staff writer covering UAV photography, the First Amendment, and more. Follow him on twitter @theandrewmeyer.