Texas state troopers forcefully dragged an activist out of the State Capital during a public committee hearing on a bill seeking to restrict abortions after a committee chairman announced orders for her stop live streaming footage of her political representatives in action even though Texas law clearly states it’s a legally protected activity.
State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook directed liberty activist Amy Hedtke to stop recording the meeting over the proposed restrictions, claiming she wasn’t permitted to record because she didn’t have the proper media credentials.
In the video posted to Hedtke’s Facebook page, Chairman Cook can be heard making an announcement, saying the hearing is being livestreamed via the Texas Capitol’s website.
So, naturally, there wasn’t a need for a citizen to document the hearing.
“Only credentialed media is allowed to visually record,” Chairman Cook directs from the panel.
“Anyone else will be asked to leave.”
Hedtke apparently disagreed and peacefully resisted the violation of her First Amendment right to record public officials conducting public business in a public place.
Shortly after she peacefully refuses Cook’s directions, troopers from the Department of Public safety approach and order her to stop recording.
One trooper tells her to gather her belongings an leave the meeting room.
Hedtke continues peacefully refusing and even reads aloud to the troopers the Texas statute that states recording a government meeting open to the public may not be impeded.
Sec. 551.023. RECORDING OF MEETING BY PERSON IN ATTENDANCE. (a) A person in attendance may record all or any part of an open meeting of a governmental body by means of a recorder, video camera, or other means of aural or visual reproduction.
(b) A governmental body may adopt reasonable rules to maintain order at a meeting, including rules relating to:
(1) the location of recording equipment; and
(2) the manner in which the recording is conducted.
(c) A rule adopted under Subsection (b) may not prevent or unreasonably impair a person from exercising a right granted under Subsection (a).
Added by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 268, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.
Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 87 (S.B. 471), Sec. 5, eff. May 18, 2013.
As she continues backing up her polite refusals by saying what she means and meaning what she says, the troopers continue to ignore what she’s actually saying and continue insisting she stop recording, pack her stuff and leave the meeting.
A staff member in the video claims Chairman Cook has the right to ban non-credentialed media from recording the hearing, telling Hedtke house rules trump state law.
“[The] state law is clear. I have the right to be here. And you are breaking state law if you violate my right to record.”
A trooper refers to the announcement made by Chairman Cook stating the house room’s policy insisting she leave an stop recording while Hedtke tries to explain to the troopers house policy isn’t the same thing as state law.
“I am not leaving. I have the right to be here. This is a right,” Ledtke explains. “I have the right to be here and record. That’s what this law says.”
The trooper insists she turn off the video.
“He’s violating the peace of the state. I’m not going to turn it off. I have the right to be here. I have the right to record,” Hedtke says. “If you’re going to break state law and remove me for exercising my right, that’s on you guys.
After some back and forth, Hedtke’s video stops, but second camera captures her being dragged out of the building to be arrested.
After her release from jail on Wednesday, Hedtke described her experience in a video taken in front of the jail.
“I had a long day. It was horrible. When we got back here. They decided they were done dragging me around. And they decided to bring out the restraint chair. So they chained me in the restraint chair, put a hood over my head, Hannibal Lecter-style. And took me . . . they sat me in this room; they just left me in this room a couple hours,” she recalled.
“Then decided I needed to change out of my red dress and into the prison garb.”
In 2014, demonstrations ended with police violence after protestors flooded the halls of the Texas State Capitol to fight a bill that severely restricted women’s access to safe and legal abortion.
The proposal gained national attention after a lengthy filibuster by former Texas Senator, Wendy Davis, and the restrictions were ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court 5-3.