Dear Police and Republican Officials:

Citizen journalists have rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, federal statutes, and federal courts. Stop trampling those rights and then hiding behind ‘resisting arrest.’ (More)

Nydia Tisdale is a citizen journalist. She doesn’t get paid by a TV station or newspaper, but she records local civic and political meetings and posts the videos on her YouTube channel and her AboutForsyth website.

In fact, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens supported Tisdale in a case against the city of Cummings, whose mayor had evicted her from a city council meeting in 2012, in violation of the state’s open meetings law. When Attorney General Olens saw Tisdale at a political rally on August 23, he had some good news:

Two days earlier, the attorney general told her, a judge had signed an order that leveled a $12,000 fine at the city and mayor for violating the state’s open meetings law. The decision wouldn’t become part of the court record until Monday, but Olens wanted her to know.

“I was on Cloud Nine. I was ebullient,” she said. A judge had recognized that what she did had value, and should be protected. Tisdale asked a fellow journalist to snap a feel-good photo of her and her protector.

Tisdale had arrived early at the rally on a private farm in Dawsonville, so she could get a front seat, on the same row as Gov. Nathan Deal. She had her camera ready and began recording the speeches. And then the trouble began:

[Former county GOP chairman] Clint Bearden stood in front of the crowd and said let’s get this kicked off as he introduced Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens. With Tisdale’s camera rolling Hudgens started making his campaign stump speech. When talking about Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate Michelle Nunn, referring to the Chamber of Commerce debate between Perdue and Nunn, Hudgens said listening to Nunn: “I thought I was going to absolutely puke.”

Hudgens looked at Tisdale and said “I don’t know why you’re video taping?”

Bearden spoke with someone, who told Tisdale to stop recording and tried to take her camera away. She demanded that he identify himself and said she would get her ID from her purse:

“Nope, you’re going to jail,” the officer said in the video.

“I’ve been real nice, now you’re going to jail for resisting arrest if you do not stop,” the official said. By then, the sheriff’s official had Tisdale with her hands behind her back pressed against a desk. He never identified himself in the video. Another man could be heard saying, “Will you please stop ma’am? We’ve asked you multiple times.”

And then she was arrested:

Tisdale would eventually be charged with trespassing, a misdemeanor, and obstructing an officer “by elbowing him in the right cheek area and kicking him in the right shin.” That last one’s a felony.

“He didn’t need to have his body pressed against my rear end,” Tisdale said Wednesday.

Needless to say, the sheriff’s department quickly cleared the deputy of any wrongdoing:

Sheriff Billy Carlisle on Friday said the internal affairs probe he launched to determine if protocol was followed in the arrest of Nydia Tisdale on Aug. 23 proved Wooten lawfully performed his duties as a law enforcement officer.

“All the witnesses we’ve talked to … conclude Capt. Wooten was acting in the lawful performance of his duties at the request of the property owner to have Ms. Tisdale to stop recording and when she refused, to have her removed from the property,” Carlisle said.

The organizers kicked out several Democratic trackers before the rally began, but Tisdale isn’t a tracker who makes videos for opposing campaigns. She’s a journalist who posts videos of local civic and political events, and the rally organizers did not exclude the media or announce a no-recording policy.

In response, the Forsyth County Republican Party issued a new media policy:

The FCGOP defines Media Organizations as the following as defined by US Code (2 USCS § 1602)

“a person or entity engaged in disseminating information to the general public through a newspaper, magazine, other publication, radio, television, cable television, or other medium of mass communication.”

The FCGOP defines Journalist as the following:

1) Any individual employee who is compensated to represent a recognized media organization as defined above.

2) Any independent individual who is retained or compensated for articles submitted and published by a recognized media organization as defined above.

3) Any independent individual who has applied for recognition by the FCGOP as a member of the media, not falling into either of the previous definition, and complies with the established policy of the organization.

The FCGOP acknowledges and recognizes the existence of a third category and definition for Media, that of Social Media. To that extent, the FCGOP acknowledges and defines these individuals as persons or people engaging in the definition of journalism as described above, but via formal blog sites or email communications.

Well, since they’re going to look up one federal statute, why not add this one:

Notwithstanding any other law, it shall be unlawful for a government officer or employee, in connection with the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense, to search for or seize any work product materials possessed by a person reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast, or other similar form of public communication, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce; but this provision shall not impair or affect the ability of any government officer or employee, pursuant to otherwise applicable law, to search for or seize such materials, if—

(1) there is probable cause to believe that the person possessing such materials has committed or is committing the criminal offense to which the materials relate: Provided, however, That a government officer or employee may not search for or seize such materials under the provisions of this paragraph if the offense to which the materials relate consists of the receipt, possession, communication, or withholding of such materials or the information contained therein (but such a search or seizure may be conducted under the provisions of this paragraph if the offense consists of the receipt, possession, or communication of information relating to the national defense, classified information, or restricted data under the provisions of section 793, 794, 797, or 798 of title 18, or section 2274, 2275, or 2277 of this title, or section 783 of title 50, or if the offense involves the production, possession, receipt, mailing, sale, distribution, shipment, or transportation of child pornography, the sexual exploitation of children, or the sale or purchase of children under section 2251, 2251A, 2252, or 2252A of title 18); or

(2) there is reason to believe that the immediate seizure of such materials is necessary to prevent the death of, or serious bodily injury to, a human being.

In other words, cops can’t seize a citizen journalist’s camera – “notwithstanding other laws,” including rules made up by a local Republican Party – unless there is other evidence to show the camera is being used in the commission of a crime.

As a citizen journalist, Tisdale was committing no crime. So the officer – who, again, did not identify himself – had no legal grounds to seize her camera. Not even if the property owner, a GOP backer, chose to exclude her but not the other journalists who were covering the rally, one of whom also recorded the incident.

And Tisdale had a right to record the officer who approached her, even if cops routinely ignore that and hide behind the charge of ‘resisting arrest.’ Indeed a former Colorado prosecutor said he could identify bad cops by how often they filed resisting arrest charges.

Oh, and all of this was in Georgia, where Republicans say pretty much anyone can carry a gun pretty much anywhere. But refusing to turn off your camera is ‘resisting arrest.’

Good day and good nuts.