Reality Check: Can police "terminate" your 1st Amendment rights? - Tucson News Now

Reality Check: Can police "terminate" your First Amendment rights?

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(FOX19) -

Let me set the scene. A group of news photographers and reporters were on a sidewalk outside of a Chicago, IL hospital.  Nothing unusual there. A uniform police officer decides he doesn't like where those crews are set up and tells them to move much further back.  That too is not that unusual.

"Get across the street." says the officer.

"This is a news affair." replies the reporter.

"I don't care about news affair, what news affair?  I don't give a f--- about news affairs.  Okay?"  The officer yells back.

Again, this back and forth between police and media is nothing new.  It happens all the time.

The crews were at the hospital covering the shooting of a little girl which had happened in a completely separate part of Chicago.

A couple of important things to notice here.  There is no police tape out, so its not like the news crews have crossed a police line.  They are not on public property.  These crews are performing the most basic job in local media and are completely within their rights under the first amendment's protection of freedom of the press.

Now, here is where the cop goes off the rails.

"Your first amendment rights can be terminated if are creating a scene, if you are creating a scene or whatever."  The officer explains.

"How are we creating a scene?  We haven't created a scene."  The reporter and photographer respond.

The officer continues, "Your presence is creating a scene."   

"Our presence is creating a scene?"  asks the news crew.

It doesn't take a constitutional scholar to tell you that under the Constitution, your first amendment right can not be terminated if you are "creating a scene or whatever".

Of course that doesn't stop these officers from arresting two journalists

"Get the cuffs out.  Is it worth it going to...and you the first." says the officer.

So as we let the video play here as a reporter and news photographer were arrested, a couple of legal points here.

There is no law in Illinois that says anyone has to follow any order given by the police unless the person defying such order does so at the immediate detriment of public safety.

Clearly, that was not the case here.

Also, the first amendment cannot be "terminated" unless by court order or immediate and grave threat to public safety and even then, the first amendment still stands when a person or persons are relocated to a safer area.

So what you need to know is that after being arrested these two journalists were not charged with anything. They hadn't committed a crime. But this is happening on a regular basis.

Get this, according to the National Press Photographers Association, there have been 70 of these incidents since last September.  What should be concerning to many Americans is that while police and government officials are taking unprecedented steps in surveillance, and the monitoring of American's activities, which may not be constitutional, they are at the same time cracking down on the media's and the public's right to record or report on what is happening right out in the open.

And that is Reality Check.

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