The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania police have arrested a 41-year-old man for using Twitter to post messages about police movements during the recent protests surrounding the G20 Summit. Also, FBI agents entered the man’s home in New York City and confiscated computer equipment. The man is charged with directing others to avoid apprehension. The police declared the entire protest in Pittsburgh illegal, giving themselves the apparent freedom to charge anyone who helps the protesters. But anyone could have read the Twitter postings anywhere in the world. It was a public announcement about what the police were doing in plain sight. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has stated that if this were happening in Iran or China, it would be condemned as a human rights violation. It most certainly is.
Police movements are public knowledge. Posting to Twitter about the whereabouts of police during a protest is simply the publication of public information. There is absolutely nothing illegal about it. If I stand on a street corner with my cell phone and Twitter about the movements of police cars, I’d be doing exactly what this man was arrested for. If those cars happened to be on their way to intercept a criminal, could the police come and arrest me for aiding that criminal?
The problem of police brutality and illegal actions against protesters is wildly out of control all over the nation. In Los Angeles you have the police violently attacking a peaceful gathering of immigration protesters in MacArthur Park. The riot police beat up television journalists and smashed their cameras. Later, the department had to pay over fourteen million dollars to private citizens and has even more to pay to the journalists they attacked. In Minneapolis the police burst into a home containing the organizers of a peaceful group planning protests for the Republican National Convention. The police held the organizers at gunpoint, tied-up on the floor for hours, just to keep them away from the convention. These were young highly-educated people with attorneys present on scene being held at gunpoint by a police force with no other intention than to prevent the exercise of their right to free speech and public assembly.
Look at this video from the G20 protests in Pittsburgh. Pay special attention during the arrest and assault on some protesters at the 5 minute and 12 second mark. What do you see? It’s a press photographer clearly wearing some sort of credential on his chest. He saunters through the melee without concern. He’s carrying a camera. The cops ignore him because he’s got that press credential. Then at the 6 minute and 15 second mark you hear a cop arresting someone and he says: ‘You’re with the press? Who are you with?’ Presumably, he’s going to let a member of the press go instead of arresting him.
I think this video is fascinating because it shows who the free press really is. Look at what the protesters are doing. They are using cameras against the police. Everywhere you look someone is trying to point a camera at the police. The press is the people with all the cameras pointed at the cops. The credentialed press photographer is walking around with his credential. He’s filming nothing at a moment when protesters are being abused, beaten with sticks, and pepper sprayed. The press is the other people. The ones with the cameras who are being chased and beaten. That’s the press. We are the press. We film bovine imbeciles with sticks and helmets and we upload our movies to YouTube. There’s always something to film when a cop’s got a stick in his hand. Everywhere you turn someone with a camera is catching some jackass cop murdering or beating someone. It’s a war. Cameras against cops. And the big one hasn’t hit yet. It’s coming. Something will snap and when it does it will be covered by the free press on the ground live in the struggle right up close in a cop’s face.
The fact of the matter is that most of these G20 protesters are highly educated literate people. They are vastly more intelligent than the cops. The cops actually know that. It irritates them and they are itching to beat people up. It’s universal to all police forces. When you get a crowd of these people in body armor with sticks and guns you have an extremely volatile situation on your hands. The masks confine the cops’ breathing and vision, increasing anxiety and tension. These cops don’t think well and they are far more dangerous than the crowds they are trying to control. I’m all for sticking cameras in their faces. And Twittering about their movements. It’s legal. It’s free speech and it’s protected.
And yessir, Mr. Pittsburgh cop, we’re with the press.
We’re All With The Press.