Is it illegal to exercise your First Amendment rights on Constitution Street in Baltimore?
Yes, according to corrections officers from the Chesapeke Detention Facility, a maximum security prison across the street from the Baltimore Central Detention Center, where we were attempting to interview a man who spent two months in the city jail for video recording a fight.
We first interviewed Jason Fyk on PINAC Live! in early May, following up about his police abuse experience at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department in 2011.
Jason turned his life around shortly after beating bogus attempted murder charges, but last Christmas Eve experienced yet another police abuse incident in Cecil County, Maryland.
It was agreed that we would shoot on the sidewalk between the state prison and the infamous city jail where Fyk endured a 50+ night stay on attempted murder charges – all for recording a brawl.
Less than a minute into the interview when multiple Maryland corrections officers interrupted us and threatened to call Baltimore police to have us arrested for trespassing on a public sidewalk.
On Constitution Street, of all places.
Our news crew, which included longtime photo rights activist Jerome Vorus, asserted our rights, keeping our cameras recording. All four of them.
Little did they know, Fyk brought his lawyer to be interviewed as well.
Miguel Palmeiro is a Maryland attorney and litigator whose practice includes pro-bono public interest law in addition to Criminal Defense. While he contacted the prison warden by phone, a Baltimore cop pulled up and told us to leave.
But PINAC publisher Carlos Miller told him that “Baltimore PD was told by the Department of Justice, and should know that photography is legal”
And I chimed in that “we’re talking about General Order J-16 items one through five,” which coincidentally had been the topic of discussion on the Lyft ride from Penn Station to Constitution Street.
It worked, the cop drove away. Quickly.
But the prison guards kept hassling us for another 20 minutes until the assistant warden and then finally the warden himself walked out, and called off the dogs.
We finished the interview about Fyk’s latest arrest, which we will edit and publish next week.