Antonio Buehler, the founder of the Peaceful Streets Project, has uncovered internal police documents revealing a shocking attempt at abuse of power by the Austin Police Department.
In September 2012, Buehler wrote a satirical facebook post in the form of a fictional letter to the editor of the local newspaper written by assistant APD Chief of Police David Carter. Among it’s subject matter, the letter pointed out the APD’s lack of respect for Constitutional rights, and the police’s penchant for shooting dogs.
Following Buehler’s post, David Carter tried to have Buehler prosecuted for criminal impersonation.
“I tried to make a joke on a private facebook page about the Austin Police Department not giving a damn about people’s constitutional rights or their dogs. So APD tries to get me indicted on a third degree felony for “Online Impersonation,” wrote Buehler, 37, a former army lieutenant and West Point graduate, who earned his MBA from Stanford.
Ever since his arrest for photographing an abusive arrest on January 1, 2012, Buehler has been raising the ire of Austin police officers for organizing local activists to begin recording police in public, which became known as the Peaceful Streets Project with chapters springing up in other cities. The organization also raised money to purchase cameras for local residents so they could hold police accountable.
He also had to spend endless hours and money to fight felony charges from his arrest where he was accused of spitting in an officer’s face, although another man with a camera captured the incident from across the street and there was no indication of spitting.
There is also surveillance video from the gas station that never went public but will be used in a pending lawsuit should it go to trial.
“It further shows that the cop was the aggressor,” Buehler said. “He came up to me. I never interfered with the arrest. It shows I never spit on the cop.”
Then in the ensuing months as that case was still pending, he was arrested an additional two times.
More than a year after the initial arrest, his case was brought before a grand jury, which dismissed the felony charge, but charged him with one count of misdemeanor failure to obey for each arrest.
The grand jury also tacked on a charge on interference for an incident in which he exposed an undercover cop in public, an incident which you can see below for which he was never arrested.
“There was no question the prosecutors were working in cahoots with the cops,” he said, adding that the surveillance video was viewed by the district attorney, the grand jury as well as internal affairs.
“The video is a complete contradiction to what (officer) Oborski wrote in his affidavit,” he said.
The four charges from the grand jury are still pending and he is scheduled to go to trial for the interference charge on September 24.
Nevertheless, Buehler filed suit against the Austin Police Department with the cops claiming qualified immunity, insisting that the right to record cops “is not recognized as a Constitutional right.”
On July 24, 2014, Judge Mark Lane rejected their motion for qualified immunity, ruling that private citizens have the right to record officers in public places as they perform their official duties, allowing Buehler to proceed with his lawsuit.
Although the right to record cops has been affirmed by several court decisions throughout the country over the years, the motion to dismiss from Austin police allowed a Texas judge to set the record straight once again in a thorough 36-page decision.
If a person has the right to assemble in a public place, receive information on a matter of public concern, and make a record of that information for the purpose of disseminating that information, the ability to make photographic or video recording of that information is simply not a new right or a revolutionary expansion of a historical right. Instead, the photographic or video recording of public information is only a more modern and efficient method of exercising a clearly established right. In light of the existing Fifth Circuit precedent and the robust consensus among circuit courts of appeals, the Court concludes that the right to photograph and videotape police officers as they perform their official duties was clearly established at the time of Buehler’s arrests.
Below are the internal APD emails recovered by Buehler, which paint him as a violent criminal, as well as Buehler’s initial facebook post. A three-word email, “DA declines prosecution,” was the response assistant chief Carter received for his attempt to have Buehler prosecuted.
Buehler also obtained proof that Justin Berry, the undercover cop he exposed in a video trying to arrest underage women drinking in bars, had compiled an intelligence report on him, labeling him a “sovereign citizen,” which is considered a “domestic terrorist group” by law enforcement, even though Buehler has never claimed that status.
The intelligence report, posted below, also points out that the West Point graduate has “access to weapons” and is “skilled in weapons,” even though the only weapons he has used since his arrest are cameras.
For his part, Buehler remains steadfast in growing the Peaceful Streets Project. “We plan to augment and grow the police accountability movement by mobilizing thousands of volunteers engage in direct action tactics, such as know your rights trainings and cop watches to change the culture of society so we empower millions,” said Buehler in a YouTube post.
His experience has left him with a very sour impression of law enforcement in genera.
“I used to think there were rogue cops that gave the profession a bad name,” he said. “Now I realize the entire profession is corrupt.”