Portland Video Activists Questioned by Homeland Security After Flying Drone over FBI Building - PINAC News
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Portland Video Activists Questioned by Homeland Security After Flying Drone over FBI Building

Mike “BlueHair” Smith and two other citizen observers from Film the Police Portland flew a DJI Phantom quadcopter over an FBI building in Portland last week on the 13th anniversary of 9/11.

“To commemorate the death of our civil liberties – this is the anniversary of 9/11…to commemorate that, we’re going to fly a drone over the FBI building here,” said Mike BlueHair.

Before the members of Film the Police Portland could launch their quadcopter, an FBI agent took their picture from across the street and called the Department of Homeland Security police. After flying the quadcopter for under a minute and recording aerial video of the roof of the FBI building, which revealed nothing spectacular, the FTP Portland activists were met by law enforcement officers from the Department of Homeland Security.

The first officer on the scene snatched the DJI Phantom from the sidewalk as “abandoned property” until one of the FTP members claimed ownership of the Phantom, whereupon the officer demanded ID in order to give it back. When the officer realized he had crossed the line and his juvenile strong-arm tactic wouldn’t work, he quickly put the Phantom back down.

“We were called here because you guys were flying a drone over an FBI building, some people find that unusual it’s 9/11,” said the officer. In a further attempt to explain his behavior, the officer said, “Most people when we’re called don’t hold their cameras up trying to provoke us.”

While it’s interesting that a law enforcement officer thinks a citizen holding up a camera to a cop is like a matador holding up a red cape to a bull, Mike BlueHair quickly cut off the conversation, asserting his rights and establishing that no law had been broken, that they did not have to provide ID as they was not being detained before forcing the officer to admit that they were free to leave. The members of FTP Portland then made their exit from the armed federal agents.

In all, four DHS officers and an FBI agent showed up to question the three men for essentially flying a remote controlled plane. After the FTP activists walked away, they were questioned a final time by the FBI agent as to their motives, while one of the DHS officers asked BlueHair to put his camera down. Mike BlueHair refused to stop recording, and on the anniversary of 9/11, asked an FBI agent to question the actions of the federal government. The FBI agent walked away.

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.

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