Harrasment of photographers
Harrasment of photographers for taking photos in plublic places is becoming more common.
This article has grown to include harrasment of protesters and others.
This white balance card set allows you to wear your photography rights around your neck while you're out shooting, and can be easily shown to anyone who challenges your legal right to photograph. These durable plastic cards are 5.4cm by 8.5cm and are attached to a white lanyard via a detachable clip, which makes using the cards while shooting a breeze. Here's a copy of the guidelines that are printed on the cards. Feel free to print them out and carry them with you if you decide not to purchase this card! http://store.petapixel.com/products/Photographers-Rights-Gray-Card-Set.html
- You can make a photograph of anything and anyone on any public property, except where a specific law prohibits it. i.e. streets, sidewalks, town squares, parks, government buildings open to the public, and public libraries.
- You may shoot on private property if it is open to the public, but you are obligated to stop if the owner requests it. i.e. malls, retail stores, restaurants, banks, and office building lobbies.
- Private property owners can prevent photography ON their property, but not photography OF their property from a public location.
- Anyone can be photographed without consent when they are in a public place unless there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. i.e. private homes, restrooms, dressing rooms, medical facilities, and phone booths.
- Despite common misconceptions, the following subjects are almost always permissible: * accidents, fire scenes, criminal activities. * children, celebrities, law enforcement officers. * bridges, infrastructure, transportation facilities. * residential, commercial, and industrial buildings
- Security is rarely an acceptable reason for restricting photography. Photographing from a public place cannot infringe on trade secrets, nor is it terrorist activity.
- Private parties cannot detain you against your will unless a serious crime was committed in their presence. Those that do so may be subject to criminal and civil charges.
- It is a crime for someone to threaten injury, detention, confiscation, or arrest because you are making photographs.
- You are not obligated to provide your identity or reason for photographing unless questioned by a law enforcement officer and state law requires it.
- Private parties have no right to confiscate your equipment without a court order. Even law enforcement officers must obtain one unless making an arrest. No one can force you to delete photos you have made.
- These are general guidelines regarding the right to make photos and should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you need legal help, please contact a lawyer.
the civil liberties group has received a redacted version of the directive that was sent out last year. Significantly, it embraces federal buildings — not just courthouses — nationwide. You might want to print out this version and tuck it in your camera bag in case you’re challenged in the future. “Given the many reports of harassment, we encourage photographers to carry this directive with them, particularly if they intend to take pictures where they’ve had problems in the past,” said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the N.Y.C.L.U. The three-page bulletin reminds officers, agents and employees that, “absent reasonable suspicion or probable cause,” they “must allow individuals to photograph the exterior of federally owned or leased facilities from publicly accessible spaces” like streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas. Even when there seems to be reason to intercede and conduct a “field interview,” the directive says: Officers should not seize the camera or its contents, and must be cautious not to give such ‘orders’ to a photographer to erase the contents of a camera, as this constitutes a seizure or detention. http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/see-officer-i-can-too-take-that-picture/
News, quick links
Washington Cop Attempts to Incite Photographer by Invading Personal Space. Paris is a veteran cop who shot an innocent man in 1996, resulting in a $538,000 settlement for the victim with no disciplinary action against him, so he learned early on he can get away with anything. http://photographyisnotacrime.com/2014/11/tacoma-cop-incite-photographer-barry-paris/
Railroaders, Railfans, and “The Letter”. http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/observation-tower/archive/2015/01/28/railroaders-railfans-and-the-letter.aspx
PINAC Reporter Assaulted by Government Official for Recording Public Facility in Washington. http://photographyisnotacrime.com/2015/01/pinac-reporter-assaulted-government-official-recording-public-facility-washington/
H.R.5893 - Ansel Adams Act https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/5893/text
How to Protect Your Phone From the Police. http://gizmodo.com/how-to-protect-your-phone-from-the-police-1460461081
Ten days ago, about two dozen Free Press department heads were assembled in a conference room. I was making a presentation when Photo-Video Director Kathy Kieliszewski appeared at the door, waving at me to stop the meeting. I figured this wasn’t going to be good news, and it wasn’t: Mandi Wright, a staff photographer, had been arrested. http://www.freep.com/article/20130721/OPINION05/307210055/
FREEP PHOTOGRAPHER ARRESTED FOR FILMING POLICE http://voiceofdetroit.net/2013/07/16/freep-photographer-arrested-for-filming-police/
Detroit police and the department’s internal affairs officers have launched investigations following the arrest of a Free Press photographer who was filming a police action on a public street last week. Police said they are looking into the conduct of photographer Mandi Wright and the actions of an officer who ordered her to stop filming and wrestled her phone away from her. They also are looking into the disappearance of a memory card from her newspaper-issued iPhone and whether she was briefly left alone with the crime suspect whom she had been filming. Wright, 47, was arrested Thursday after she and a reporter came upon an arrest scene near Woodbridge and Riopelle, east of downtown. Police at the scene said Wright tussled with an officer after he had confiscated her iPhone; Wright said that she was concentrating on taking her video and did not realize the man who grabbed her phone was a police officer. Wright was handcuffed and later, she said, put in an interrogation room with the suspect. Detroit Police Chief James Craig confirmed Monday that an internal affairs investigation is being conducted. Deputy Chief James Tolbert said no conclusions have been drawn, but if that investigation verifies that she was put into a room with the suspect and then left alone, “that could be a serious breach of department policy.” http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013307160018
San Onofre security demands video be deleted. Team 10 crew detained by state parks police. http://www.10news.com/news/investigations/san-onofre-security-and-state-parks-police-detain-team-10-crew-and-demand-video-shot-on-public-property-be-deleted-060513
Court: Railfans have "right" to take pictures on NYC subways. http://trn.trains.com/Railroad%20News/News%20Wire/2013/03/Court%20Railfans%20have%20right%20to%20take%20pictures%20on%20NYC%20subways.aspx http://gothamist.com/2013/03/22/cops_cant_keep_arresting_people_for.php
Don Phillips' Photography Article: My goodness. http://cs.trains.com/TRCCS/forums/p/157826/2102664.aspx
Police Chief Confirms Detaining Photographers Within Departmental Policy. http://www.lbpost.com/life/greggory/12188
Rochester police use selective enforcement of parking laws to harass attendees at a meeting in support of Emily Good. http://www.boingboing.net/2011/06/24/rochester-police-use.html
Woman who filmed cop from own yard charged with obstructing his administration of government. http://www.boingboing.net/2011/06/22/woman-who-filmed-cop.html
Man faces jail for videotaping gun-waving cop. http://www.boingboing.net/2010/08/01/man-faces-jail-for-v.html
Taking Photos In Public Places Is Not A Crime: Analysis. http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/how-to/computer-security/taking-photos-in-public-places-is-not-a-crime?
DOT response to the ACLU regarding photo harassment. http://www.flickr.com/photos/erin_m/3876610842/
ACLU: Charges against journalist may be retaliation for reporting on police brutality. http://michiganmessenger.com/13455/aclu-charges-against-journalist-may-be-retaliation-for-reporting-on-police-brutality
Photographers criminalised as police 'abuse' anti-terror laws. http://arbroath.blogspot.com/2009/01/photographers-criminalised-as-police.html
"Obviously, there is a lack of communication between Amtrak's marketing department, which promotes the annual contest, called Picture Our Trains, and its police department, which has a history of harassing photographers for photographing these same trains. Not much different than the JetBlue incident from earlier this year where JetBlue flight attendants had a woman arrested for refusing to delete a video she filmed in flight while the JetBlue marketing department hosted a contest encouraging passengers to take photos in flight." http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/01/04/1846229
Bus-Spotter Labelled A Paedophile. A bus-spotter says it is no longer safe to practise his hobby of 40 years after being branded a terrorist and a paedophile. Rob McCaffery, 50, is proud of his 30,000 photos of trams and coaches but after being interrogated twice in 12 months he fears the time may have come to hang up his camera. The credit controller, from Gloucester, says he now suffers "appalling" abuse from the authorities and public who doubt his motives. The bus-spotter, officially known as an omnibologist, said: "Since the 9/11 attacks there has been a crackdown. "The past two years have absolutely been the worst. I have had the most appalling abuse from the public, drivers and police over-exercising their authority. Mr McCaffery, who is married, added: "We just want to enjoy our hobby without harassment. "I can deal with the fact someone might think I'm a terrorist, but when they start saying you're a paedophile it really hurts." http://uk.news.yahoo.com/skynews/20080624/tuk-bus-spotter-labelled-a-paedophile-45dbed5.html
D.C. is a hotbed for beautiful photography. But one place where taking pictures is frowned upon is Union Station. Fox 5's Tom Fitzgerald investigates why security is telling people to turn off their cameras. http://www.myfoxdc.com/myfox/pages/Home/Detail;jsessionid=58D2CF26A83141E848CF2FE820711B7B?contentId=6664418&version=1&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=VSTY&pageId=1.1.1&sflg=1
VIDEO: You can't herd cats or street photographers http://www.flickr.com/photos/photodrift/2422740769/
Surveillance Camera Outdoor Walking Tours http://www.notbored.org/scowt.html
the progressive, McCarthyism Watch http://www.progressive.org/mccarthy
We were downtown yesterday and realized the Patriot Act has permeated every square inch of Los Angeles. http://www.flickr.com/photos/malingering/356000195/
VA Police Delete Photographs Taken by Muslim-American Journalism Student
Mariam Jukaku is a 24-year-old graduate student in journalism at Syracuse University.
After her photography class on September 6, she started to do her homework, which was to take pictures around campus. She’s a Muslim American, and was wearing brown pants, long sleeves, and a brown scarf.
As she walked on the sidewalk toward her car, she passed the VA hospital, so she tried out her camera, taking pictures of the VA entrance and the flags hanging above it.
“I was there for about five or ten minutes,” says Jukaku, “and I was turning away to leave and a woman in a blue uniform came up to me really fast, and said, ‘You can’t take pictures here,’ in an authoritative, demanding voice. Before I could even get another word in, she said, ‘Give me your camera.’ “I must have said something like, ‘What?’ Because I didn’t even process it, and she said, ‘Give me your camera now!’
“So I gave her my camera, and she was kind of looking at it, and she didn’t know how to work it, and so she said, ‘Set this up so I can look at it.’ “I showed her the playback camera, it’s a digital, and I showed her how to scroll them. She looked at all of them, and then said, ‘Delete these in front of me right now.’
“They were the pictures of the flags and the entrance. At that point, I didn’t think it was a big deal, so I deleted them.
“Then she was asking me why I was taking pictures, and I told her I was taking photographs for my class. So she asked me for my student ID, which I gave to her.”
At that point, says Jukaku, another VA police officer arrived, this one a male.
“He asked for my driver’s license, so I gave him my driver’s license,” she says. “Then they took me inside into a small little office, with a sign on it that said ‘police,’ and they questioned me about what I was doing there and why I was taking pictures.
They photocopied both my student ID and my driver’s license. Then the male officer asked whether I was a U.S. citizen.” Jukaku said yes.
“The male officer was telling me it was illegal to photograph federal property, and he also said I couldn’t take pictures of veterans without permission,” says Jukaku, adding that they objected to the fact that there were people in the background of her photos.
“While I was in the office, the female officer deleted more of my pictures, and she didn’t tell me which ones,” Jukaku says.
After about 15 or 20 minutes, they gave her camera back to her and let her go.
“When she took my camera, I was kind of shocked,” Jukaku recalls. “And when they took me inside, I kind of got worried. Especially when they asked me if I was a U.S. citizen.”
After they let her go, Jukaku was distraught. A Newhouse fellow (essentially, an intern) with the Syracuse Post-Standard, she called the editors to tell them that she would be late for the meeting they were having. When she arrived and clued them in as to what happened, they told her to contact her journalism professor.
She did. “I called him, and I got really upset,” she says. “It was a traumatic incident.”
“She’s a very level-headed person, but at the end of the conversation, she was crying a little bit,” says adjunct professor Doug Wonders, who manages the photography department facilities. “It was really sad.” Wonders says the VA police had no right to delete her photos, and he calls it “extraordinary.” In the 12 years he’s been running the photo facilities, he’s never heard of anything like this.
“Knowing that she wears a headscarf, I had to shake my head and think whether or not this had any bearing on them approaching her,” he says. In an e-mail to the South Asian Journalism Association forum, she wrote about that concern.
“When you’re a South-Asian Muslim woman wearing long sleeves and a headscarf on a 90-degree day in early September, the thought that security guards are overreacting solely based on your appearance tends to creep around in the back of your mind,” she wrote. “You tell yourself you’re just being paranoid. But then you get asked if you’re a U.S. citizen—and the creeping thought lands with a resounding thud.”
When the Syracuse Post-Standard first reported on this story on September 7, the VA backed off a bit. “Removing the images that she shot was inappropriate, so we apologize,” Gordon Sclar, the medical center’s public affairs officer, told the paper.
But then the medical center dug in.
“It is quite unfortunate that the actions of one SU student (i.e., taking unauthorized photographs while on VA property) who was not familiar with the longstanding policies/procedures became an issue (from the perspective of the student),” said James Cody, Syracuse VA medical center director, in a prepared statement e-mailed to me on September 17. “The verification of the student’s identification (a procedure which requires photocopying the forms of identification) established the innocence of the student’s intentions. The assessment of unauthorized photographs of patients’ faces elicited the request to delete these images from the camera’s memory card. The deletion of the remaining photographs was not requested, nor required. . . . The VA Medical Center’s police officers handled the matter according to accepted federal practices.”
The Syracuse Post-Standard saw things differently. “Note to VA: It’s Still a Free Country” was the headline on its September 9 editorial. “Hospital security overreacted throughout the incident,” the paper wrote, ‘curbing a journalist’s—or anyone’s—right to take pictures in a public place.” Calling their action “over the top,” the paper wrote: “The hospital needs to give its security guards a crash course on the rights of citizens in a free country.” Don Cazentre, regional editor for the paper, says: “We don’t believe that the authorities have the right to dictate what someone standing on the sidewalk, as she was, does with a camera.”
Jukaku expressed her own beliefs in a column she wrote for the paper on September 16, entitled, “A question of guarding freedoms.”
“I am only asking to be treated like an American who lives in a country where we are free to practice our religion, free to speak, free to publish our ideas, and certainly free to take pictures in a public place,” she wrote. “This is the America I was raised in, the America I believe in, the America I challenge all of us to invest our hope in.”
A question of guarding freedoms
September 16, 2007 A camera and a head scarf. I own both. I use both the head scarf since I was a teenager, the camera came out of the box brand new last week. I never thought the two used in combination could create such a stir.
Last Thursday, I walked out of my introductory photography class in the Newhouse I building on Syracuse University's campus toward my car. I had a few minutes to spare before a meeting, so I decided to test out some of the functions on my camera. I snapped a few pictures on campus and continued to take pictures as I was walking. When I reached the VA Medical Center on Irving Avenue, I stopped for a few minutes to take pictures of the row of flags near the entrance and some of their signs. I was hoping to catch the American flag blowing in the wind.
As I turned to leave, a VA police officer (security officer?) approached me on the sidewalk and told me I couldn't take pictures of the building. Before I could get in another word, she demanded that I hand over my camera and ordered me to delete several of my pictures. She asked for my student ID.
Another officer approached and asked for my driver's license. They took me into their office and questioned me about my "motives" and "purpose." More of my pictures were deleted. My ID cards were photocopied. I was asked if I was a U.S. citizen.
When I explained I was just a student taking pictures for a class, I was told taking pictures of federal property was illegal. I told them I was on the sidewalk. Still illegal, they said, adding that taking pictures of veterans without permission was illegal as well. Finally, after 15 to 20 minutes of being questioned, a public relations officer told me I needed permission from him to take pictures because of medical privacy concerns. I couldn't make out exactly which kind of medical privacy concerns are in question on a public sidewalk a sidewalk I use every day on my way to class.
I don't know what prompted this reaction from the VA. Was it my camera, was it the approaching anniversary of Sept. 11, or was it my head scarf? Perhaps it was a combination of all three.
I understand that wearing a head scarf and long sleeves on a 90-degree day in late summer can attract stares, even questions. In fact, I welcome them, because to me it is just a reminder that in America we are free to dress how we choose even if it means we look different from most of the people around us. I wear a scarf not as a political symbol or statement. I simply use it as a means to cover my hair. In Islam, covering the hair is a sign of modesty for women, similar to the way the Virgin Mary is portrayed with a hair covering in most Christian depictions.
What I don't understand is why such a scarf should arouse suspicion. I agree with the VA public relations officer Gordon Sclar when he told The Post-Standard, "We live in challenging times." But our challenge is not figuring out how to deal with students using a camera on a public sidewalk. Our challenge is figuring out how to maintain our freedoms and liberties in an atmosphere of fear and paranoia.
I'm not asking the VA police officers or any other law enforcement official to be less vigilant when they are charged with
the responsibility of protecting the public.
Neither am I asking for special treatment because I am a Muslim or because I'm a student or because I am a journalist. I am only asking to be treated like an American who lives in a country where we are free to practice our religion, free to speak, free to publish our ideas and certainly free to take pictures in a public place.
This is the America I was raised in, the America I believe in and the America I challenge all of us to invest our hope in.
Mariam Jukaku is a Syracuse University graduate student. She writes for The Post-Standard as part of the Newhouse fellowship program.
Professor detained for taking pictures sues
Snohomish police handcuffed her, searched car
November 16, 2007 Artist Shirley Scheier drove to Snohomish to make the kind of picture you couldn't get in a city -- power lines against an unobstructed sky.
She wound up being patted down, handcuffed and put into the back of a police car on that day two years ago, in a detention that lasted 44 minutes.
The electrical substation she photographed had been identified by the Department of Homeland Security as a "critical infrastructure" target.
The longtime UW professor sued the city of Snohomish on Thursday, in what her lawyers say is an example of harassment toward photographers resulting from misplaced fears about terrorism.
- Shirley Scheier often employs images of electrical transmission towers in her art. In Snohomish, "They have those beautiful ... support structures that look really figurative," she said.
Three years ago, community college student and amateur photographer Ian Spiers was swarmed by agents after setting up a tripod at the Ballard Locks, in what was widely perceived as an incident of racial profiling.
"A camera is not dangerous," said Scheier, 54, a printmaker who has exhibited at the Seattle and Portland art museums and in galleries across the country. "I was terribly frightened about how I was going to be treated, because everything seemed so completely out of proportion with my activity," she said.
Snohomish City Manager Larry Bauman said the city had not yet seen the lawsuit and declined to comment. But in a letter denying a prior claim for damages, the city's insurers said police had reasonable suspicion to detain Scheier.
The letter claims she left the Bonneville Power Administration substation quickly after being approached by security, and had maps in the car, with locations such as Sea-Tac Airport and the Westin Hotel circled.
Before being released, police searched her car with her permission, the letter said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which is representing Scheier, said it shouldn't be considered suspicious or illegal for someone to take photos from publicly accessible spaces.
Last week, Seattle resident Bogdan Mohora received an $8,000 settlement from the city of Seattle after he was detained for snapping pictures of police arresting a suspect on Pike Street. He was released after an hour and warned that he could be charged with disturbing the peace or provoking a riot, according to the ACLU.
On Oct. 17, 2005, Scheier initially thought she was being pulled over for a minor traffic violation, according to her suit.
She had been shooting photographs in Snohomish that she planned to incorporate into her etchings. "They have those beautiful high-voltage power lines and support structures that look really figurative, as if they're marching across the landscape," she said.
She took 17 pictures from publicly accessible spots outside the security fence, including city streets, the suit says. There were no signs warning against taking photos, Scheier said.
After she left, a Snohomish police officer pulled her over, asked to see her license, registration and the maps lying on the passenger seat. Two other officers arrived and vigorously questioned her about why she was taking pictures, she said.
Scheier originally didn't feel the need to justify what she was doing, but eventually explained that she was a college professor working on an art project.
Officers appeared not to believe her, she said, which made her afraid they had her confused with someone who had committed a crime.
They asked her to exit the car, searched and handcuffed her, put her in a patrol car and started asking strange questions, such as whether she had children, Scheier said.
It was uncomfortable and frightening, she said. After Scheier agreed to let them search her car, she said she eventually overheard a radio transmission with someone saying they should let her go.
The Snohomish officers said she would be contacted by Homeland Security, which never happened, Scheier said.
Scheier said she filed the suit, which seeks unspecified damages, largely because of her role as a teacher.
"I would never want something like this to happen to any of my young students who have less skill with engaging with this kind of problem," she said. "That's really important to me."
Beth Sellars, who has been curating art shows in the Northwest for 30 years and has known Scheier for at least half of those, called the police response "ludicrous."
"She's a completely responsible person who's been a part of the art community for years," Sellars said. "I would not say that she would be threatening in the least tiny bit."
Posted by Section7 at 11/16/07 7:18 a.m.
It must be so nice to live life as an artist...to find in the world what you really need to see...to make commentary on all those things that are wrong with the world...to have a complete misunderstanding of the world we live in VS the world you ideally think we should live in...
As usual, this a totally one-sided story. I for one am glad there are cops out there doing their jobs. And before the rants come out that the cops had no business handcuffing her--remember that police have proceedural standards and most of you would be outraged at a lack of consistent treatment...
This woman admits that she didn't feel the need to justify her actions--which may or may not be true--but it sounds to me that had she given a reasonable explaination from the get-go, none of this would have happened.
She was making a point of principle. No one would have questioned her about taking photographs of the Space Needle--as it is a reaonable, popular tourist attraction to photog. Taking photos of a remote, yet critical piece of infrastructure is suspicous and bears some investigation. You all would be up in arms if a copper saw someone taking pics of the thing, did nothing then tried to justify why no action had been taken if something happened to it. You can't have it both ways.
Before you all start calling the US a police state, realize that most other countries--even progressive ones--are far more paramilitary regarding critical infrastructure, immigration issues, and violations of law. Spend some time in 'liberal' Amsterdam if you need convincing...
White Plains, Westchester County, NY
March 21, 2006 As a freelance photographer, Ben Hider carries his camera with him just about everywhere, and so it was on Friday, as he was heading to the train station in White Plains he stopped to snap some beauty shots on the flags in front of the court house. That's when his trouble began.
Ben Hider, Photographer: "Three police officers ran at me, immediately, telling me to stop where I was."
Jan 24,2006 A federal judge on Monday urged better training for Torrance police after calling the conduct of officers involved in the April detention and search of a man who was taking photographs of a refinery "disturbing."
U.S. District Judge George King made his comment at the end of a hearing in a lawsuit filed by Redondo Beach resident Jim McKinniss, who contends that police patted him down, took pictures of him, took his thumbprint, and asked if he was a "terrorist" after he was taking photographs of the Exxon-Mobil refinery from a sidewalk along Prairie Avenue. He was not arrested.
NYCLU sues city over right to shoot video, pictures in public
The New York Civil Liberties Union sued the city on Tuesday, challenging restrictions on people's right to photograph public places after an award-winning filmmaker from India was blocked from videotaping near the MetLife building.
In its lawsuit, the civil rights group highlighted the plight of Rakesh Sharma, who said he was left feeling ashamed and humiliated when he was detained in May 2005 after police saw him use a hand-held video camera on a public street in midtown Manhattan.
In December of 2003 I was in Portsmouth Virginia. From the Jordan Bridge, Elm Ave. across the middle reach, you could see into the shipyard where the Enterprise had a huge lighted sign on it’s bow: “SEASONS GREETINGS”. By the bridge, there is a public park, on the east side of the reach; I went there during the day and from the sidewalk took some pictures of the carrier and the bridges. A gentleman accosted me for taking the pictures; when this happens to you it is a real shock; someone is accusing you of being a terrorist. He demanded my identification while he was just in street clothes, no uniform or id showing. I gave him one of my business cards and walked away, he was angry that I still had the photos.
Manchester, N.H. January 2006
There's a shiny new airport in Manchester, and I'm there to take pictures as part of an article I'm working on for that mouthpiece of liberal fascism, the Boston Globe. I've shot about six digital pictures, and I'm working on the seventh -- a nicely framed view of the terminal façade -- when I hear the stern "Excuse me." A young guy in a navy windbreaker steps toward me. It says AIRPORT SECURITY in block letters across his back. "You can't do that. You need to put the camera away."
War on Christmas: Holiday Displays and Yard Signs
ACLU backs Toledo homeowner in dispute over anti-war signs
December 14, 2006 TOLEDO, Ohio - The city has threatened to fine a homeowner who has four signs in his front yard that list the number of U.S. troops killed and wounded in Iraq and the number of Iraqis who have been killed.
Jeff Nelson was told by the city's building inspection office that he was limited to one outside sign without a permit.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday said it was supporting Nelson in his fight against the city ordinance. The group said the signs are political so the limits should not apply.
"This law is far too restrictive and clearly violates Mr. Nelson's right to express his political viewpoints," said Jeffrey Gamso, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio.
City Law Director John Madigan said the city is allowed to set reasonable limits on such signs.
Political Sign Causes Flap In N.W. Albuquerque
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A political sign in an Albuquerque neighborhood is drawing criticism from neighbors.
The sign in Northwest Albuquerque shows President George W. Bush's name with a circle around it and a slash running through it. Some neighbors want it taken down, but the homeowner thinks it's a freedom of speech issue.
The homeowners association in the area said it doesn't agree with the sign but has not fined the homeowner.
Both sides said they are willing to go to court to resolve the matter.
peace sign wreath
PAGOSA SPRINGS - After a firestorm of controversy, an area homeowners association is allowing a resident to hang a peace sign wreath.
Bill Trimarco told 9NEWS that late Monday night they found a letter on the front door of the home. In the letter, the homeowners association apologized for the misunderstanding and told the residents they did not have to take down the wreath.
Trimarco said he is grateful for the amount of support they have received from around the World. He told 9NEWS support has come from South America, troops in Baghdad and the Netherlands.
The homeowners association had originally said they would charge Lisa Jensen, the homeowner, $25 a day until she removed the peace sign shaped Christmas wreath after reported complaints from other residents.
Some had said the wreath is an Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.
Some residents who had complained have children serving in Iraq, Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs, told the Durango Herald. He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.
"The peace sign has a lot of negativity associated with it," said Kearns. "It's also an anti-Christ sign. That's how it started."
Most researchers believe the symbol originated as the logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Kearns asked for the resignation of a five-member neighborhood panel that refused to cite Jensen. All five members resigned.
"Somebody could put up signs that say, 'Drop bombs on Iraq.' If you let one go up, you have to let them all go up," Kearns said.
Lisa Jensen said she wasn't thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. Jensen said, "Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing."
"It was just a Christmas message for peace on Earth," she told 9NEWS Monday. "We didn't put it up as any kind of statement against the war at all."
Jensen, a past association president, calculates the fines would have cost her about $1,000 and doubted she will be forced to pay them. Nevertheless, Jensen had said she would not take it down until after Christmas.
"Now that it has come to this, I feel I can't get bullied," she said. "What if they don't like my Santa Claus?"
"This (wreath) is such a small little thing. We weren't out to fight a battle or anything, but they're (HOA) not going to take that away just at somebody's whim," she said.
The association in this 200-home subdivision 270 miles southwest of Denver had sent a letter to her saying that residents were offended by the sign and that the board "will not allow signs, flags etc. that can be considered divisive."
On Monday, the KYGO morning show told 9NEWS it got several calls from people who would be willing to pay the fine for Jensen.
She also said she had gotten many calls directly from people willing to pay any fines her.
"It's really overwhelming. I'm just so moved by people who reach out like that," said Jensen.
Kearns did not comment on the story directly to 9NEWS.
Military LRAD devices placed at San Diego town halls come under fire. http://www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner~y2009m9d15-Deadly-military-LRAD-devices-placed-at-town-halls-come-under-fire
Brutal police violence at Berlin "Freedom not Fear" demonstration. http://www.boingboing.net/2009/09/13/brutal-police-violen.html
Video of Clashes Between St. Paul Police and RNC Protestors Bubble Up Online. http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/09/footage-of-clas.html
Man who drove at protesters gets probation. A Ramona man who drove his pickup toward a group of anti-war protesters in June was sentenced to probation Friday, ordered to take anger management classes and to perform 20 days of public service. “Just as they were protesting on the side of the street, you will be picking up trash on the side of the street,” said El Cajon Superior Court Judge Roderick Shelton. Keith Davis, 55, pleaded guilty in July to one count of reckless driving in connection with a June 27 incident along state Route 67 near Dye Road in Ramona, where about a dozen anti-war protesters, many of them elderly, were standing and holding signs. Shortly after the incident, Davis said in an interview that he was only expressing his First Amendment right of self-expression when he drove slowly onto the shoulder of the highway and displayed his middle finger to each person protesting. He said he thought the protesters were “un-American.” Several protester said they had to jump out of the way as the pickup ran over their signs at about 20 mph. Friday, Davis was contrite and apologetic in court. “All my life I've tried to do good deeds,” he said. “I'm ashamed and embarrassed I've done this. I can't believe I'm here. I've always tried to be someone to be looked up to.” Davis apologized to two protesters who attended the sentencing hearing. One, Evelyn Perez, said she thought Davis should have been facing a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge. Deputy District Attorney Heather Trocha said more serious charges were not pursued because it would have been difficult to prove Davis intended to hurt anyone. About a half-dozen other protesters wrote letters to the judge. “I understand Mr. Davis' anger and frustration because I have those same feelings, which is why I protest,” wrote Catherine Sellers. “It is the proper and legal way to voice your views. Mr. Davis tried to illegally take that right away from me on Friday, June 27th.” Shelton noted before sentencing that Davis has never been in trouble with the law and he does not believe he will be again. But he also said some protesters are now afraid to stand by the road. “I hope this does not have a chilling effect on people to use their constitutional rights to protest,” he said. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20080919-1805-bn19davis.html
Olympia attorney argues against anti-war protest arrest. During the protests, Tacoma police had been issuing trespass warning notices to first-time violators, keeping a list and then making an arrest if the person trespassed again. The two people with Jones were released with warnings. “I don’t have to show my papers on demand; I don’t live in that kind of world,” Jones said. His law firm produces a pamphlet called “What are my rights?” which includes a section that says you can’t be arrested merely for not giving your name to police. http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/crime/story/436614.html
know your rights http://nlg.org/resources/kyr.php
Twelve Arrests, But No Violence at Bangor Anti-Nuclear Protest. Five were arrested by deputies after they attempted to hang a banner from a nearby overpass. They were booked into the Kitsap County jail for investigation of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. They were then released. Milner said the banner had the words, "CREATE A PEACEFUL WORLD FOR ALL CHILDREN, Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Scrap Trident." The sidewalk on the overpass spanning over Clear Creek Road NW had been closed to pedestrians because of information the sheriff's office received that members of Tacoma Students for a Democratic Society would attend the demonstration. The group is considered more militant than Ground Zero. For the safety of officers, the overpass was closed to pedestrians, Wilson said. http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2008/jun/01/twelve-arrests-but-no-violence-at-bangor-anti/
Highway blogger exonerated. Judge rules man with anti-Bush signs not a danger. http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080307/NEWS01/80306150
‘Highway blogging’ legality debated. Interstate demonstrators claim protected speech; city cites safety. http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200880127028
Honking tickets irk war protesters http://www.dailybulletin.com/ci_7982601
Sic 'em With the Rally Squad http://www.slate.com/id/2172500/nav/tap3/
Mention the President, Lose a Case http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1184869654447
Trooper to get more training after protest sign altercation
[February 27, 2008] A state trooper will be receiving additional training following an altercation with a handful of student protesters Monday on a University District overpass.
Six members of the student chapter of Justice Works, a group advocating reform in the criminal justice system, were holding a large mesh sign on the 45th Street bridge of Interstate 5 when they were approached by the trooper, said Jon Yousling, one of the students organizing the protest.
Protesters had been holding the sign -- which read "Education not incarceration" -- for more than an hour without disturbance when the trooper arrived. Heated words were exchanged as the trooper demanded the protesters remove the sign, which the State Patrol now acknowledges was displayed within the law.
"We knew what the regulations are," said Jaime Brown, a junior at the University of Washington. "He was still trying to get us to release the sign."
The trooper grabbed the sign, then dragged it and one of the protesters into the street, Yousling said. As more officers arrived, it became clear that the broken sign was returned to the protestors.
No arrests were made and no one was injured in the incident.
State Patrol Lt. Bill Gardiner said the incident will be noted in the personnel file of the trooper, who's been with the department for about 18 months. He will also receive training in conflict resolution.
"The bottom line is the trooper was probably a little gruff toward these students," Gardiner said. "It also looks like they were kind of egging him on as well, so there's a little of that."
Anti-Bush Sign Has Bridge World in an Uproar
- From left, Jill Levin, Jill Meyers, Debbie Rosenberg and Irina Levitina of the Venice Cup championship team in Shanghai.
In the genteel world of bridge, disputes are usually handled quietly and rarely involve issues of national policy. But in a fight reminiscent of the brouhaha over an anti-Bush statement by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks in 2003, a team of women who represented the United States at the world bridge championships in Shanghai last month is facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for a spur-of-the-moment protest.
At issue is a crudely lettered sign, scribbled on the back of a menu, that was held up at an awards dinner and read, “We did not vote for Bush.”
By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”
“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them.”
Not so, said Danny Kleinman, a professional bridge player, teacher and columnist. “If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition,” he said by e-mail.
Ms. Martel said the action by the team, which had won the Venice Cup, the women’s title, at the Shanghai event, could cost the federation corporate sponsors.
The players have been stunned by the reaction to what they saw as a spontaneous gesture, “a moment of levity,” said Gail Greenberg, the team’s nonplaying captain and winner of 11 world championships.
“What we were trying to say, not to Americans but to our friends from other countries, was that we understand that they are questioning and critical of what our country is doing these days, and we want you to know that we, too, are critical,” Ms. Greenberg said, stressing that she was speaking for herself and not her six teammates.
The controversy has gone global, with the French team offering support for its American counterparts.
“By trying to address these issues in a nonviolent, nonthreatening and lighthearted manner,” the French team wrote in by e-mail to the federation’s board and others, “you were doing only what women of the world have always tried to do when opposing the folly of men who have lost their perspective of reality.”
The proposed sanctions would hurt the team’s playing members financially. “I earn my living from bridge, and a substantial part of that from being hired to compete in high-level competitions,” Debbie Rosenberg, a team member, said. “So being barred would directly affect much of my ability to earn a living.”
A hearing is scheduled this month in San Francisco, where thousands of players will be gathered for the Fall North American Bridge Championships. It will determine whether displaying the sign constitutes conduct unbecoming a federation member.
Three players— Hansa Narasimhan, JoAnna Stansby and Jill Meyers — have expressed regret that the action offended some people. The federation has proposed a settlement to Ms. Greenberg and the three other players, Jill Levin, Irina Levitina and Ms. Rosenberg, who have not made any mollifying statements.
It calls for a one-year suspension from federation events, including the World Bridge Olympiad next year in Beijing; a one-year probation after that suspension; 200 hours of community service “that furthers the interests of organized bridge”; and an apology drafted by the federation’s lawyer.
It would also require them to write a statement telling “who broached the idea of displaying the sign, when the idea was adopted, etc.”
Alan Falk, a lawyer for the federation, wrote the four team members on Nov. 6, “I am instructed to press for greater sanction against anyone who rejects this compromise offer.”
Ms. Greenberg said she decided to put up the sign in response to questions from players from other countries about American interrogation techniques, the war in Iraq and other foreign policy issues.
“There was a lot of anti-Bush feeling, questioning of our Iraq policy and about torture,” Ms. Greenberg said. “I can’t tell you it was an overwhelming amount, but there were several specific comments, and there wasn’t the same warmth you usually feel at these events.”
Ms. Rosenberg said the team members intended the sign as a personal statement that demonstrated American values and noted that it was held up at the same time some team members were singing along to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and waving small American flags.
“Freedom to express dissent against our leaders has traditionally been a core American value,” she wrote by e-mail. “Unfortunately, the Bush brand of patriotism, where criticizing Bush means you are a traitor, seems to have penetrated a significant minority of U.S. bridge players.”
Through a spokesman, the other team members declined to discuss the matter. Ms. Narasimhan, Ms. Stansby and Ms. Meyers have been offered a different settlement agreement, but Ms. Martel declined to discuss it in detail.
Many of those offended by the sign do not consider the expressions of regret sufficient. “I think an apology is kind of specious,” said Jim Kirkham, who has played in several bridge championships. “It’s not that I don’t forgive them, but I still think they should be punished.”
Mr. Kirkham sits on the board of the American Contract Bridge League, which accounts for a substantial portion of the federation’s financing, Ms. Martel said, and has submitted a proposal that would cut the league’s support for the federation, one of two such proposals pending.
Robert S. Wolff, one of the country’s pre-eminent bridge players, who has served as an executive and board member of several bridge organizations, said that he understood that the women might have had a legal right to do what they did but that they had offended many people.
“While I believe in the right to free speech, to me that doesn’t give anyone the right to criticize one’s leader at a foreign venue in a totally nonpolitical event,” he wrote by e-mail.
David L. Anderson, a bridge player who supports the team, said it was common to see players at international tournaments sporting buttons bearing the date “1-20-09,” when George W. Bush will hand off to a new president, as well as buttons reading “Support Our Troops.”
“They don’t go after those people,” Mr. Anderson said.
Copious cameras troubling to ACLU
Report urges cities to halt surveillance
August 20, 2007 Cities in the county and across the state are using surveillance cameras to record people's activities with almost no public debate and few adopted policies outlining how the data will be used, an American Civil Liberties Union analysis concludes.
More worrisome, the report's authors say, is the possibility that government monitors may integrate facial-recognition and other technologies to develop databases that track individual behaviors.
“Surrendering privacy does not make us safer,” said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties, which produced the study with ACLU chapters in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Titled “Under the Watchful Eye,” the 25-page report is scheduled to be released today. It examines privacy and civil liberties, and concludes that public surveillance programs should be stopped until they are thoroughly evaluated.
Widespread surveillance violates the constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure without a warrant or probable cause, the report says.
The ACLU began examining the use of cameras by local governments after a two-camera pilot program in San Francisco in 2005 grew into a larger project that still is expanding.
San Francisco officials conceded that they had done little evaluation of the cameras' effectiveness in preventing crime. According to the ACLU report, the only records the city could provide showed that crime increased in more than half of the areas under surveillance.
More California cities are using surveillance programs in an effort to suppress crime.
ACLU researchers surveyed 131 jurisdictions and found 37 communities with some type of video program. Of those, none had undertaken a comprehensive evaluation of the cameras' effectiveness. Eleven police agencies enacted policies to regulate use of the systems.
Grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security pay for many of the programs.
Last fall, the El Cajon Police Department used federal funds to buy a “sky watch” mobile tower to monitor crowds. It was first used at Westfield Parkway Plaza.
“We're excited about the possibilities,” El Cajon police Capt. Pat Sprecco said at the time.
Government officials have an obligation to fight crime and terrorism, said Keenan of the ACLU, but they also need to be smart about how they use their limited resources.
“We should be concerned that this is an ineffective way to do law enforcement and spend taxpayer money,” Keenan said. “We should be concerned about the growth of a total-surveillance society.”
The ACLU report said surveillance is helpful in strategic places, such as airports, but has less practical value in general meeting spaces.
San Diego County is well-represented in the number of cities that use surveillance cameras as a law enforcement tool. National City spent $60,000 in Homeland Security money on a system last year.
Four cameras began monitoring a stretch of Roosevelt Avenue in July 2006 to help fight prostitution. City Manager Chris Zapata said policies were put in place to prevent abuse of the images.
National City police are expected to report to the City Council in November on the cameras' effectiveness, Zapata said. In the meantime, he said he feels the area has improved by a “quantum leap” since the cameras were installed.
The Metropolitan Transit System has mounted cameras at several trolley stops in Chula Vista and San Diego. At one San Diego stop, the cameras can look down C Street.
San Diego has cameras that look at a recreation center in City Heights and an adjoining park on Landis Street.
“A lot of criminals are bothered by cameras,” San Diego police Sgt. Alan Hayward said. “If they do have a crime there, at least we can look at the film and see if we can identify the suspects.”
The city uses mobile cameras for security at major events, such as the Super Bowl or political demonstrations.
In Vista, the Sheriff's Department uses a mobile camera system it bought with a $20,000 federal grant.
Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a San Diego organization that advocates on behalf of consumers and their personal information, said she has been worried about government surveillance for years.
“Government agencies do not have a clean record when it comes to surveillance abuses, going back decades,” Givens said. “Without strong policies and effective oversight, it's a given that abuse will occur.”
San Diego State University sociologist Philip Gay said the rising use of video surveillance is troubling because no clear definition exists of what purpose the cameras serve. “This is a huge problem,” Gay said. “Today, you don't know when you're being observed, why you're being observed, what's being done with the information or whether the information is being edited.”
One scenario outlined in the ACLU's report has government agents employing video surveillance and other identifying technology to track people's activities.
Technology could be used to create files that detail where individuals shop, what they purchase, whom they visit and how they spend time.
The potential for abuse of information like that may be limitless, experts say. Insurance companies, business rivals or corrupt authorities might exploit such data.
Keenan said the ACLU will provide copies of its findings to elected officials across California in an effort to jump-start public debate on the merits of such video programs.
Charges against ‘highway blogger’ will change
August 17, 2007 ASHEVILLE — Police said Thursday that it would change charges against a man who held an “impeach Bush, Cheney” sign from a bridge over Interstate 240.
Jonas Phillips, a 35-year-old West Asheville resident, said he had recently taken up “highway blogging,” a protest practice of displaying signs of political discontent from highway overpasses.
Police cited him Wednesday for obstructing the sidewalk but said Thursday a N.C. Department of Transportation violation would be more fitting.
Phillips said he had the signed propped on the Haywood Road bridge railing over I-240.
He had not been charged with the new violation, a class 1 misdemeanor, by late Thursday night.
“The intent was public safety and the banner being a hazard,” Asheville police Capt. Wade Wood said. “That’s basically to the benefit of the motoring public.”
Wood said there was a possibility of the sign falling on motorists below. The sign had not been returned pending court proceedings, he said.
Phillips said he was not blocking the sidewalk while holding his 5-by-1 foot sign. He said he was aware of that ordinance and not trying to break it.
Police gave him no warning to move before putting him under arrest, Phillips said.
“I don’t want people in Asheville to be scared of protesting,” he said. “I wasn’t asking for trouble.”
Flag charges dropped
August 3, 2007 ASHEVILLE- Buncombe County's sheriff and district attorney have dropped charges against a couple accused of desecrating the American flag, saying they stood little chance in court.
The Sheriff's Office will continue an investigation into the actions of Deputy Brian Scarborough, who issued the charges after a complaint from a fellow National Guardsman, Sheriff Van Duncan said Thursday.
Duncan said he "had rather we responded to that call differently" and that Scarborough "probably shouldn't have been there to begin with."
The sheriff said he asked District Attorney Ron Moore to drop the charges against Mark and Deborah Kuhn, who also said the deputy assaulted them.
The Kuhns had pinned signs to an upside down American flag that included a photo of President Bush with "Out now" written on it.
Their case marked only the third time in North Carolina since 1917 that the state's flag desecration statute had been enforced, according to the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts.
U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1989 and 1990 protected flag desecration as a form of expressive conduct under the First Amendment. The state law also was challenged and ruled unconstitutional in 1971.
"It's pretty apparent to us where the Supreme Court stands on this issue (flag desecration)," Duncan said. "Also, it has been dealt with in this state in 1971, and we do not feel like we can successfully prosecute the desecration of the flag statute."
Scarborough issued charges against the Kuhns on July 25 at their Brevard Road home in Asheville.
An ensuing scuffle with the deputy put the Kuhns in jail on charges of assault on a government employee, obstruction and flag desecration, all misdemeanors.
Debbie Kuhn said Thursday she was relieved all charges had dropped but wants to the deputy who charged them fired.
Scarborough could not be reached.
The flag confiscated by the Sheriff's Office was returned. Kuhn said she and her husband plan to post their flag again. It also will be flown upside down but not until the Sheriff's Office investigation is done.
"We do want to give Sheriff Duncan the chance to do the right thing," Kuhn said.
The couple have not filed a formal complaint with the Sheriff's Office, she said.
Duncan said he hoped the internal investigation would be done next week. The office has received "hundreds" of phone calls from people expressing both support and anger at Scarborough's actions, Duncan said.
As it's written in the code, state law prohibits anyone from knowingly mutilating, defiling, defacing or trampling the U.S. or North Carolina flags. The Kuhns have said they were displaying the flag upside down to protest the state of the country. An upside down flag is a universal distress signal.
The Sheriff's Office has said the signs pinned to the flag, not the fact that it was flying upside down, led to the charges.
Sheriff's reports allege the Kuhns assaulted Scarborough as he was trying to place them under arrest, including slamming the door, breaking a glass pane and cutting the deputy's hand.
The Kuhns said Scarborough broke into their house and violated their civil rights.
"The stories of the people who saw the incident and the deputy's stories are very, very close," Duncan said.
Mark Radford, a staff sergeant in the National Guard's Asheville-based 105th Military Police Battalion, is the one who told Scarborough about the Kuhns' flag. Radford would not comment Thursday.
Someone, not Radford, had complained to Asheville police about the Kuhns' flag days before their arrest. The city police officer investigated but did not issue a citation.
Duncan said it's normal practice to refer calls within city limits to Asheville police unless a crime is committed in the deputy's presence or in an emergency.
Scarborough, 25, started at the Sheriff's Office in 2003 as a reserve deputy. He was hired full time June 13, after serving seven months in Iraq with the National Guard.
"Whether we agree with someone's actions whether or not to hang the flag upside down, it does seem to be the intention of the Supreme Court, which is the supreme law of the land, to allow that," Duncan said. "So in other words, the Kuhns are allowed to do what they're doing.
"On the other side of that, if it weren't for young men like Deputy Scarborough, we wouldn't have those rights."
Duncan said the District Attorney's Office likely could have prosecuted the Kuhns on the assault and obstruction charges. Duncan said he wanted to make amends with both sides and bring closure to the issue.
"I don't think we gain anything by dividing the charges and going on," Duncan said. "We feel like the sooner we can move on from this, the better all parties involved will be."
Flag-desecration charges dropped against N.C. couple
August 04, 2007 ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Buncombe County authorities have dropped flag-desecration charges against a couple who displayed an upside-down flag with protest signs pinned to it.
Sheriff Van Duncan said he asked District Attorney Ron Moore to drop charges against Mark and Deborah Kuhn, whose flag included a photo of President Bush with "Out now" written on it.
Duncan also said his office would continue an investigation into the conduct of the deputy who issued the charges after a complaint from a fellow National Guardsman. Duncan said Deputy Brian Scarborough "probably shouldn't have been there to begin with."
The Kuhns also said Scarborough assaulted them.
The sheriff said U.S. Supreme Court decisions have protected flag desecration as free speech and it was doubtful that the county could win a case.
Scarborough charged the Asheville couple July 25. A scuffle ensued, and the deputy put the Kuhns in jail on misdemeanor charges of assault on a government employee, obstruction and flag desecration.
The sheriff's office returned the confiscated flag, which Kuhn said the couple planned to display again. The Kuhns said they displayed the flag upside down to protest the state of the country, though the sheriff's office said the signs pinned to the flag led to the charges.
Duncan said his office received hundreds of calls about the case, some supportive of the deputy and others not. Scarborough, 25, was a reserve deputy before he was hired full-time in June. He also served with the National Guard in Iraq.
The state's flag-desecration law had been enforced three times since 1917, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
Flagged down: Activists arrested in row over protest flag, allege abuse by Buncombe deputy
by David Forbes on 07/26/2007
The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office arrested activists Mark and Deborah Kuhn in West Asheville Wednesday morning after a complaint that the couple was desecrating an American flag. They say a deputy invaded their home and used excessive force. [The photo at right, taken by a neighbor, shows Mark on the ground, with Deborah standing by, during the arrest.]
The flag was hung upside down as an act of protest and had several statements pinned to it, including a picture of President Bush with the words “Out Now” upon it and one explaining the meaning of the upside down flag, a sign of distress.
The Kuhns, along with several neighbors and witnesses, assert that a sheriff’s deputy violently invaded their home at 68 Brevard Road. The sheriff’s office claims that the couple assaulted deputy Brian Scarborough and resisted arrest.
According to the report from the sheriff’s office, Scarborough arrived at the home at 8:45 a.m. in response to a complaint about the desecration of a flag.
Lt. Randy Sorrell says that while the address was in the city of Asheville, “when we receive a complaint that the law is being broken, we have to respond.”
Under a rarely enforced state statute, it is a misdemeanor to desecrate or trample a U.S. or North Carolina flag. The Kuhns said the flag was taken as evidence, though the sheriff’s department has no record of it.
After knocking on the door, the couple answered it and, after being shown the statute, said they complied and took the flag down. Scarborough then asked for their identification.
“The flag covered our whole front porch; he comes up with this printout about the law and tells us that we can’t attach things to the flag, that we’re desecrating it,” Deborah Kuhn said. “We tell him we’re not meaning to desecrate it — all we had was a picture of [President] Bush with ‘out now’ on it and a note saying this was not a sign of distress or disrespect. We did this because the country is in distress and we don’t know what to do.”
Then, she said, Scarborough “started talking arrest, so we took the flag down. He kept wanting to see our ID. We refused. We said, ‘Why should we show you our ID — are you arresting us?’; so we walked back into the house and closed the door.”
There, the accounts diverge. According to Deborah Kuhn, Scarborough “tried to force the door, but we got it closed and locked it with the deadbolt. He then kicked it, punched the glass out, unlocked our door and came after us.”
The sheriff’s office report states that “the man [Mark Kuhn] refused to identify himself and slammed the door on the officer’s hand, breaking the glass pane out of the door and cutting the officer’s hand.”
However, the Kuhns’ account is backed up by Jimmy Stevenson, who was working with Ace Hardwood Floors nearby and asserts that he saw Scarborough break down the door.
“I saw that one cop [Scarborough] pull up and I saw those people come out on the porch and start talking to him,” Stevenson said. “They took their flag down, asked the officer to leave and closed the door. Then he started kicking the door, he kicked it about five or six good times, then he laid right into it. After he got done kicking it, he broke the window out – I saw him hit the window.”
Deborah Kuhn says that Scarborough then “pursued my husband into the kitchen, they were scuffling, [and] Mark was trying to get away from him. He pulls out his billy club and I call 911 and say that an officer has broken into our house and is assaulting us.”
Scarborough sustained a cut to his arm when the window broke and Mark Kuhn had several cuts on his face from the scuffle with Scarborough.
“I was just trying to defend myself and back away from him,” Kuhn said. “They never, ever told us why we were being arrested until we were in jail.”
Deborah Kuhn asserted that no warrant was displayed or permission asked to enter the house. After calling 911, she says, she ran outside and began screaming for help.
Sam York, who lives nearby the couple, was awakened by the struggle, as the Kuhns and Scarborough both came out into the yard. “I woke up to Debbie screaming,” he said. “Mark and Debbie were saying ‘you assaulted us’ and the officer [Scarborough], was demanding their identification. Then another officer threatened them with a taser. He told Debbie to back away or he’d taser her and demanded that Mark get on the ground.”
Sorrell confirms this part of the account: “When they were outside, one of the other officers produced a taser and he [Mark Kuhn] surrendered and submitted.”
Deborah Kuhn’s screams also drew the attention of Shawn Brady and several of his roommates, who live next door to the couple. “I run outside and ask them what’s going on and there’s cops chasing Mark around his car,” Brady said. “They threaten to taser him and demand that he get on the ground. He gets on the ground and we ask them what they’re being charged with. They tell us it’s none of our concern. I tell them they’re our neighbors and it is our concern.”
Neal Wilson, who lives with Brady, also saw the deputy produce the taser, he says. After repeated questions, Brady and roommate Tony Plichta said that the deputies replied that “they didn’t know yet” what the couple would be charged with.
“This is an outrage,” Brady said. “The 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments were clearly broken today.” Plichta expressed similar anger. “They actually wanted to know why we cared — these are our neighbors,” he said.
Following the arrest, the Kuhns were taken to the Buncombe County Detention Facility, where they were charged with two counts of assaulting a government official, and one count each of resisting arrest and desecrating an American flag. Their son posted their bail shortly afterwards.
This was not the first time that the flag had attracted attention. On July 18, with just the upside-down flag hanging, an Asheville police officer stopped by to inquire about the situation.
“He was very polite and just said that because it was a sign of distress, he wanted to make sure everything was OK,” Deborah Kuhn said. “We said we had it out as a show of desperation — our country is in distress and we just don’t know what to do. We asked if we had violated any ordinance. He said, ‘No, you have every right.’”
After that, Deborah Kuhn said that she posted up the picture of Bush and the explanation of their reasons for displaying the flag in protest.
A couple of days later, Mark Kuhn said that a man in military fatigues came to their door, and was driving a car with a federal license plate. “He stood here telling me that I needed to take the flag down or fly it right,” he said.
Kuhn adds that he assumed the man was with the National Guard, due to the nearby armory.
Wilson, Plichta and Brady said that after the man stopped by, they also saw him drive by several times during the following days, and one night, witnessed several other men in fatigues taking pictures of the flag.
Furthermore, Wilson said that as the Kuhns were being arrested and taken off, he saw a man in fatigues drive by and shout “Go to jail, baby!”
After his experience, Mark Kuhn said he is convinced this is not an isolated occurrence. “If Americans don’t wake up to the martial state we’re in, the cops, the police, the sheriffs, the state police will all come to our door and take us away if we allow this to happen – it’s time for America to wake up.”
Freewayblogger in Ohio
Littering charge dropped against Kent man
September 06, 2007 KENT -- A city prosecutor this morning agreed to drop a misdemeanor littering charge and pick up court costs for a Kent man who posted an Impeach Bush sign near a public flower garden earlier this summer.
Kevin W. Egler, 45, appeared with his lawyer before Municipal Court Judge John J. Plough for arraignment and entered a not guilty plea before the charge was dismissed.
Afterward, Egler said he was glad to get this behind me.
It's been nice getting a lot of support from the community, he said. I've found a lot of people were very supportive of me and the message. I've found some people who were not supportive of the message, but were very supportive of the fact that it should be not only the right but the duty of every citizen to educate yourself on the political system to try to do what you can to make the system better.
A court clerk said the cost of the short proceeding before Plough was $82.
City prosecutor Jim Silver previously dismissed a misdemeanor charge against Egler for advertising on public property and refiled the littering charge against him last month.
As part of the agreement, Egler said he will appear before Kent City Council to discuss the issue of posting signs without being subject to punitive measures.
Man's 'Impeach Bush' Sign Leads To Littering Charge
August 16, 2007 KENT, Ohio -- A Kent resident who was ticketed last week for putting up an "Impeach Bush" sign on what was considered city land is facing different charges.
The initial charge against Kevin Egler was a violation of an advertising ordinance. That charge was dropped, but he is now being charged with littering.
The offense falls under Kent ordinance 521.08, which in part reads that no person shall place litter on any public property. But Egler and his lawyer claim that the sign is like any political sign that you would see during election time.
"In this case, all the officer had to do is treat him like they admit they treat mainstream political candidates and just say, 'Hey, remove the sign.' But the fact that you would criminalize this case, I think is an attempt to suppress free speech," said attorney Bob Fitrakis.
Egler has been summoned back to court where he plans to plead not guilty to the littering charge.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.
The location where Egler placed the sign is on state right or way property, so there is also the question of whether a Kent ordinance applies to state property.
Kent Law Director James Silver did not return a phonecall seeking comment.
Judge dismisses case over 'Impeach Bush' sign; Prosecutor filing new charge
August 10, 2007 Kevin Egler won't face charges of illegal advertising for posting a sign that said "Impeach Bush" in a public garden, according to The Plain Dealer. Instead, the prosecutor says he plans to file a more serious charge against the 45-year-old teacher.
After we told you about this case, a judge decided yesterday to dismiss the charge on free-speech grounds. The paper reports that Kent, Ohio, prosecutor James Silver supported the dismissal but says he now plans to cite Egler for littering, which carries a possible sentence of two months in jail and a $500 fine.
"I find it an incredible waste of taxpayer dollars," Egler tells the Record-Courier. "I just wish the city would see it's just a ridiculous charge."
Silver says he plans to meet with the police officer who wrote the ticket before he files any additional charges against Egler.
The city code says "advertising on public property" is a minor misdemeanor, while littering is a third-degree misdemeanor: As used in this section, "litter" means garbage, trash, waste, rubbish, ashes, cans, bottles, wire, paper, cartons, boxes, automobile parts, furniture, glass or anything else of an unsightly or unsanitary nature, thrown, dropped, discarded, placed or deposited by a person on public property, on private property not owned by him/her, or in or on waters of the State."
Kent officer tickets man for 'Impeach Bush' sign
August 09, 2007 Kent - A soft-spoken teacher posted the words "Impeach Bush" in a public garden, and Kent police cast him as an outlaw.
Today Kevin Egler is fighting that in Kent Municipal Court, and the case is emerging as a free-speech issue of interest well beyond the boundaries of placid Portage County.
Police ticketed Egler for unlawfully advertising in a public place because he put up a free-standing sign near the intersection of Haymarket Parkway and Willow and Main streets.
Egler said the officer who cited him July 25 asked: "Why don't you put the signs in your own yard?" Egler said his response was that he's a taxpayer and views the public space very much as his yard.
At 45, Egler is too young to have experienced the heyday of anti-war activity in Kent. He was only 8 when Ohio National Guardsmen shot and killed four Kent State University students during a campus protest on May 4, 1970. He went to the university a decade later, putting out an underground newspaper and acquiring an accounting degree.
Egler and about a dozen friends and associates have placed hundreds of anti-war messages around Ohio and neighboring states over the past 10 months. He said the effort is fueled by the notion that President Bush's military response after the 9/11 terrorist attacks was both illegal and immoral.
The ticket in Kent represents the first serious legal challenge to the campaign, Egler said. (He said he was ticketed for littering in Columbus after a sign he placed on a bridge blew over.)
Egler said that when he was stopped in Kent, he asked the police officer how his sign differed from Realtors posting signs on public property saying "This way to the house for sale." He said the officer asked, "You don't know the difference?" but never explained what it might be.
Columbus attorney Bob Fitrakis, Egler's lawyer, said there is a difference: The real estate sign is commercial speech, and Egler's sign is political. Commercial messages do not have anywhere near the legal protections that political speech does, he said.
Fitrakis does extensive legal work on First Amendment issues and is the publisher of the nationally recognized online publication freepress.org. He said this is the first Ohio case of its kind that he has heard of, because most prosecutions for political signs occur when someone defaces a building with paint or graffiti, but not a free-standing, easily removable sign. Until now.
But Ohio politicians - including judges running for re-election - get a great deal of latitude when it comes to posting their campaign signs, and Fitrakis said he is not aware of any instance in which a mainstream politician has been hunted down and prosecuted for the act.
Kent Safety Director William Lillich said similar tickets have been issued there, but he is not sure whether they involved commercial or political messages. He said candidates have been contacted and told to move inappropriately placed campaign signs.
Sign in Kent gets man a day in court
Issued a $125 ticket for advertising 'Impeach' Bush on public property
August 2, 2007 For doing what he believes is expressing his First Amendment right to free speech, Kevin Egler has a trial date in Portage County Municipal Court in Kent.
The South Lincoln Street resident was issued a $125 ticket July 25 by Kent police officer Jerry Schlosser for "advertising on public property," according to court records.
His advertisement? A sign reading "Impeach," urging the impeachment of President Bush placed in a small public garden at the intersection of Main and Willow streets and Haymaker Parkway.
Egler, 45, said he has placed more than 450 anti-Bush signs in the Kent area.
Kent city ordinance 503.02 states "No person shall stick, post or attach any advertisement, poster, sign, handbill or placard of any kind or description upon any telegraph, telephone, railway or electric light pole within the city, nor upon any public building, voting booth, flagging, curbstone, walk, step stone or sidewalk, or write, print or impress or in any manner attach any notice or advertisement of any kind upon any public building, voting booth, flagging, curbstone, step, stone or sidewalk" that is the property of the city.
However, Egler said he believes the message on the sign he posted is at issue, not the act itself. He said he can show dozens of other examples of advertising on public property in the city, including U.S. Army recruitment posters, "for sale" signs and other handbills tacked to public property that have not attracted the same attention.
If he can't place them in Kent, Egler said he will move his operations to the Akron area.
Egler, who is not affiliated with any local anti-war groups, hosted a small gathering Tuesday with Chicago activist and poet Mario Penalver, who has undertaken an 800-mile walk from Chicago to Washington D.C. to protest the Iraq War and inspire dialogues on peace.
Joining Penalver are Denver-based activists Brother Raymond Schwab and Brother Elliott Nesch of Beit Shalom Ministries, an evangelical Christian ministry dedicated to protesting the war, who left Denver March 1 on their own mission to Washington D.C.
All three men attended Egler's hearing Wednesday, picketing outside the Kent courthouse with signs saying "Honk for peace" and "Impeach Bush."
The three activists said they are disturbed by what they believe is a political motive behind the ticket.
"We need to be more vigilant in times of war to protect our liberties," Schwab said.
"We can't let fear compromise our Constitution," Penalver said.
Judge John Plough set a pretrial for Aug. 9 and a trial for Aug. 16.
Teen halted from chalking names of war dead
[August 3, 2007]] FORT MYERS, Fla. — Fort Myers police have stopped a teenager from chalking the names of Iraq war casualties on downtown sidewalks.
Willie Filkowski, 15, and two companions were told to stop their writing after a city worker called authorities claiming there was an anti-war protest going on in downtown.
Filkowski had begun his chalk work July 1 and had worked on his memorial most nights along with his parents, sister and friends. He started writing the names beneath a flagpole in an area park and had written almost 300 names before being stopped Monday evening. Recent rains and power washings have since swept away much of the writing.
“I thought it would be thought-provoking, and it appeals to people on both sides of the issue,” Filkowski told The News-Press in Fort Myers.
Authorities told him the chalk was graffiti, he said.
An officer told the teen he should apply for a permit with the City Council, Fort Myers Police Department spokeswoman Maureen Buice said. Officers thought the chalking could distract drivers and pedestrians, causing accidents or affecting foot traffic, Buice said.
Filkowski won’t necessarily be chalking again any time soon, however. The acting city manager told The News-Press he wouldn’t grant a permit because Filkowski does not have any signs or plaques recognizing his work as a memorial.
The legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Randall Marshall, said the city may be overstepping its boundaries, judging the chalking on its content.
The Iraq Names Project Southeast blog http://theiraqnamesprojectse.blogspot.com/
Great Western Trail over Interstate Highway 355 near Glen Ellyn on May 6
Trial delayed for war protestors http://www.chicagosuburbannews.com/wheaton/homepage/x870915341
Charges too severe against those who hung banner July 18, 2007 http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/napervillesun/news/opinions/472152,6_4_NA18_EDITORIAL_S1.article
Charges pit free speech against highway safety
Naperville attorney to work pro bono on pair's defense
July 17, 2007 A Naperville environmental rights attorney has taken the case for two people he believes are being prosecuted for their political views.
Jeff Zurawski, 39, of Downers Grove and Sarah M. Hartfield, 45, of Naperville were initially charged with disorderly conduct for displaying a banner that read "Impeach Bush and Cheney - LIARS" on May 6 on the Great Western Trail above Interstate 355.
- Jeff Zurawski of Downers Grove and Sarah Hartfield of Naperville write and sort thank-you notes they're sending to people who have contributed to their legal aid fund. They face charges for placing an anti-Bush sign above Interstate 355.
(Kate Szrom/Staff photographer)
But more charges were brought against the two war protesters Monday in DuPage County Circuit Court in Wheaton: reckless conduct and unauthorized display of a sign in viewing of a highway, both misdemeanors.
The new charges each carry a penalty of up to one year imprisonment, while the original charge was up to a three-month sentence in the county jail.
"This is political prosecution," said Naperville attorney Shawn Collins, who has taken on Zurawski and Hartfield's case pro bono.
Spokesman for the state's attorney's office Paul Darrah said the charges are not for the content of Zurawski and Hartfield's banner but for the location.
"If you're driving along the highway at 55 mph, you need to pay attention to what's going on on the road, not necessarily above the road," Darrah said.
Alongside the banner hung an upside-down American flag, "to signal to our neighbors that we are in trouble because our leaders have lied to us," Zurawski said. "They have betrayed us."
Zurawski and Hartfield said they were leading a peaceful protest and were respectful when an Illinois State Trooper asked the two to take down the banner because it posed as a potential distraction. Opposing ideologies The trouble allegedly began when three DuPage County Sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene as Zurawski and Hartfield were packing up their signs.
One of the deputies said a call was received that items were being thrown from the bridge, which both Zurawski and Hartfield deny.
"That would be senseless endangerment and destruction of innocent lives," Hartfield said. "I'm a peace activist and anyone who knows me knows I would never throw anything over the overpass, endangering someone's life."
During the course of their conversation with the deputies, one allegedly took a personal offense to the protest, citing his war veteran status and that of his son whom is currently serving in Afghanistan.
After providing their personal information to the deputies, Zurawski and Hartfield left the scene without a citation. It was three weeks later that arrest warrants were issued for each on the charge of disorderly conduct.
Now a month later, the charges have been upgraded.
Collins has asked for a jury trial for his clients.
"The people of DuPage County will see this for what it is," he said. "Even if they disagree with what Jeff and Sarah believe, they want this to be a county and a country where Jeff and Sarah are free to express their beliefs."
Zurawski and Hartfield are due in court July 30 when a trial date is expected to be set.
2 face new charges in political-banner case
Anti-Bush sign was displayed over North-South Tollway
July 17, 2007 Two DuPage County residents charged in May with disorderly conduct after displaying a political banner on a highway overpass and allegedly dropping something onto the road were charged with two more misdemeanors Monday: reckless conduct and unauthorized display of a sign on a highway.
Jeff Zurawski, 39, of Downers Grove and Sarah Hartfield, 45, of Naperville have said they placed the sign that read, "IMPEACH Bush and Cheney -- LIARS" on the Great Western Trail over Interstate Highway 355 near Glen Ellyn on May 6.
The maximum penalty for the original charge is a 3-month jail sentence, while the maximum penalty for the latest charges is a year in jail.
The defendants had asked last month for a hearing seeking to dismiss the original charge but dropped that effort. DuPage Judge Elizabeth Sexton reassigned the case to Judge Ronald Sutter for July 30 to set a date for a jury trial.
Both Zurawski and Hartfield, accompanied by about 15 supporters, said Monday that they believe a jury will acquit them.
DuPage court records indicate that the original charges were made after a Carol Stream trucker said traffic had to swerve to avoid hitting unknown objects thrown onto the road. The defendants said they took down the sign after state police requested they remove it.
DuPage County State's Atty. Joseph Birkett said Monday that the charges were added after prosecutors reviewed the case.
"This has nothing to do with political expression," he said. "People can feel any way they want about this issue, but we have laws regarding signs on public highways. Highways, like interstates, are very dangerous, and this issue deals with the safety and welfare of drivers."
War protester settles free-speech lawsuit
The man was arrested in Santa Barbara while reciting Iraq casualty list in 2004. Police said he was disturbing the peace.
April 07, 2007 A man arrested on Veterans Day in 2004 while using a bullhorn to publicly recite the names of military casualties in Iraq has reached a $17,000 settlement in his lawsuit against the Santa Barbara Police Department.
The city will pay the damages to Michael Tocher, 37, who was arrested Nov. 11, 2004, at a downtown plaza while reading a Defense Department list of U.S. and allied casualties.
The city also will pay $87,000 for his attorneys' fees.
In addition, the city will adopt a policy on arrests for disturbing the peace and instruct its officers on that policy, according to the settlement filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The draft policy outlines that officers must give people warning, document the warning and allow people to lower their voices or move before making an arrest for disturbing the peace.
Tocher's lawyers or someone they designate will be allowed to observe at least one training session, the draft policy also notes.
"In this country, you can't go to jail just because someone doesn't like what you say or how loudly you say it," Peter Bibring, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said Friday.
"Our settlement basically ensures that Santa Barbara police officers are clearly informed as to the limits of disturbing the peace in these situations, and, more importantly, informed as to the rights of people making political speech."
Santa Barbara City Atty. Stephen Wiley did not return calls Friday seeking comment.
ACLU attorneys representing Tocher sued in 2005, claiming that police could not "demonstrate a compelling, important, or even rational basis" for allegedly violating their client's 1st Amendment right to free speech.
Wiley said the officers were trying to get Tocher to quit using his bullhorn after a businessman across busy State Street complained about the noise.
"He wasn't told he couldn't continue to speak," Wiley said in 2005. "And it had nothing to do with what he was saying."
Tocher, an electrical engineer from Nipomo, Calif., decided to observe the holiday with his brother George, a Los Angeles social worker, by meeting in their hometown and reciting the names of the fallen troops.
Tocher had listed about a third of the 1,200 casualties as of that time when Officers Morris Rivard and Rayshun Drayton stopped them, saying they had received a complaint, according to the lawsuit.
When Tocher questioned Rivard's request for identification, the officer handcuffed him, had him wait on a bench for 30 minutes, drove him to police headquarters and cited him, the lawsuit states.
Tocher's brother was not arrested or cited.
Military Couple Terrorized for Beliefs
(02/09/07 -- FAYETTEVILLE) - An Army couple in Fayetteville is upset about the war in Iraq and says they are being terrorized.
Last night, someone spray-painted the word terrorist on their home and tore down anti-war signs in their yard. The couple says it's not the first time someone has tried to silence them.
Fayetteville police are investigating the incident. Catherine and James McLin say they knew their signs would draw attention, but they did not imagine someone would take it so far. And on the same day N.C.'s copy of the Bill of Rights went on display at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville.
"We are super angry that someone would infringe upon our right to free speech," said Catherine McLin, soldier's wife.
McLin said after someone tore down her signs last month she put up more and added American flags. Capt. James McLin, Ft. Bragg soldier, said the vandalism is an insult to the uniform he wears.
"This is sort of like the heart of America right here where we are all...you know, about defending the constitution of the U.S.," said Capt. McLin. "So we we're a little shocked but not totally surprised."
The McLins consider the act intimidation, not vandalism and says it will not work on them.
"I am not going to let them silence me cause they obviously have no concept of what terrorism is," said Catherine. "They are actually terrorizing us by trying to make us live in fear for what we believe in."
At this time, police are not commenting on any suspects. The McLin's haven't decided if they will clean of the paint or leave it up as a sign that free speech in their military community comes with a price.
Reichert bragged about getting finger-waving bus driver fired
November 03, 2006 SEATTLE -- U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert bragged at a Republican Party picnic last summer that the day after a school bus driver flipped off President Bush, he called the district's superintendent, leaving picnic-goers with the impression that he was responsible for getting the driver fired.
That differs from a version of the story told by school district officials and Reichert's staff this week: that Reichert didn't speak to the superintendent for weeks, and that by the time he did, the bus driver had already been fired.
The 43-year-old single mother, whose name has not been released by the Issaquah School District or her union, was bringing a busload of middle-school children back from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle on June 16 when the president and Reichert drove slowly by in a motorcade on their way to a fundraiser. From the bus, stopped on an onramp to Interstate 5, the children waved; with the windows down in their car, Bush and Reichert waved back.
According to an audio recording of the event released by the state Democratic Party on Friday, Reichert gave the following account in a speech at the King County Republican Picnic on Aug. 12:
"And as the motorcade went by, the president and I drove by on I-5, the president was having a great time. He was waving at everybody, he waved at the kids. He got the biggest kick out of the kids leaning out the window to say hello to the president of the United States.
"The sad part of it is though, we got to the last bus - and I won't tell you which school district this was - the bus driver flipped the president off."
advertising The audience groaned.
"So the very next day, you know what I did? I called the superintendent of that school district and that bus driver no longer works for that school," Reichert, a former King County sheriff, said to applause. "That's the old sheriff part of me still around."
Michael Young, chairman of the King County GOP, said he could not confirm the authenticity of the recording. But he said if it is authentic, it is a "protected communication."
"I'm surprised. If they have a purloined copy, they need to surrender it right away," Young said.
Reichert, a freshman congressman who is in a tight re-election campaign against Democrat Darcy Burner, has used the anecdote on the campaign trail to illustrate there's a proper way and an improper way to disagree with the president. One can disagree with president while still showing respect to the office, he says.
In speaking with reporters this week for stories about the bus driver, who has filed a union grievance to get her job back, Reichert press secretary Kimberly Cadena said that Reichert didn't see the obscene gesture, but was told about it by Bush. Reichert mulled the incident over for a week before calling and leaving a message for Issaquah School District Superintendent Janet Barry.
Reichert and Barry then played "phone tag" for some time - a few weeks - and when they finally connected to discuss the matter, the bus driver had already been fired, Cadena said. The school district learned of the incident because the driver had bragged about it to her colleagues, not because Reichert reported it, she said.
Cadena did not immediately return a phone call or an e-mail seeking comment Friday.
School district spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said Friday that the bus driver was fired in early September - after Reichert's speech on Aug. 12 - but that the process of terminating her began the day of the incident.
Niegowski also said the firing was not about who the driver flipped off, but because she made the gesture in front of students.
Bill Dugovich, president of Council 2 of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees, disputed that Friday. No children saw the driver's gesture because she held her hand high out the window while the children were all looking at the president, he said. He added that when the district fired the woman in September, officials cited "a presidential aide" as the source of the complaint.
"She did this in a manner in which the kids clearly would not see it," Dugovich said. "She also apologized immediately to the school district. In 25 years I can't recall an instance where that type of incident would warrant that type of penalty."
Contrary to the superintendent's assertion that the incident was "part of a pattern of behavior with this particular bus driver," Dugovich said, "There is nothing in this lady's employment record would lead anybody to believe this was part of a pattern."
The only reprimands the woman had received related to her status as a single working mother, he said - "being late to work, that sort of thing."
Arrested Bush dissenters eye courts
When school was canceled to accommodate a campaign visit by President Bush, the two 55-year-old teachers reckoned the time was ripe to voice their simmering discontent with the administration's policies.
Christine Nelson showed up at the Cedar Rapids rally with a Kerry-Edwards button pinned on her T-shirt; Alice McCabe clutched a small, paper sign stating "No More War." What could be more American, they thought, than mixing a little dissent with the bunting and buzz of a get-out-the-vote rally headlined by the president?
Their reward: a pair of handcuffs and a strip search at the county jail.
Authorities say they were arrested because they refused to obey reasonable security restrictions, but the women disagree: "Because I had a dissenting opinion, they did what they needed to do to get me out of the way," said Nelson, who teaches history and government at one of this city's middle schools.
"I tell my students all the time about how people came to this country for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, that those rights and others are sacred. And all along I've been thinking to myself, 'not at least during this administration.'"
Their experience is hardly unique.
Similar things have happened at official, taxpayer-funded, presidential visits, before and after the election. Some targeted by security have been escorted from events, while others have been arrested and charged with misdemeanors that were later dropped by local prosecutors.
Now, in federal courthouses from Charleston, W.Va., to Denver, federal officials and state and local authorities are being forced to defend themselves against lawsuits challenging the arrests and security policies. While the circumstances differ, the cases share the same fundamental themes. Generally, they accuse federal officials of developing security measures to identify, segregate, deny entry or expel dissenters.
Jeff Rank and his wife, Nicole, filed a lawsuit after being handcuffed and booted from a July 4, 2004, appearance by the president at the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston. The Ranks, who now live in Corpus Christi, Texas, had free tickets to see the president speak, but contend they were arrested and charged with trespassing for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts.
"It's nothing more than an attempt by the president and his staff to suppress free speech," said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of West Virginia, which is providing legal services for the Ranks.
"What happened to the Ranks, and so many others across the country, was clearly an incident of viewpoint discrimination. And the lawsuit is an attempt to make the administration accountable for what we believe were illegal actions," Schneider said.
Police presence at Eldersburg demonstration raises concern...
- Deputy McMillen is explaining the concern about our 'Honk To Impeach' signs at the intersection of Route 26 & Route 32 this afternoon. This picture was taken after he received instruction from Sgt. VanLeuvan of the Carroll County Sheriff's Department that we were not breaking any laws and that they could not make us stop holding our 'Honk'; signs.
At approximately 11:45am today during our demonstration four (4) Maryland State Troopers and one (1) Carroll County Sheriff Deputy pulled up at the Exxon gas station at the corner of Rt. 26 & Rt. 32. As Carroll County Sheriff Deputy McMillen approached me standing on the corner, I was surrounded by the State Troopers. They informed me that the sign I was holding was causing motorists to break the law and that I should not have 'Honk' to Impeach on the sign. They were respectful upon first talking to me and then you could feel their tension grow as Trooper Tindell stated, "...you really should not have the work 'honk' on your signs." At that moment I requested to speak to the duty officer for the Carroll County Sheriff's Department. Deputy McMillen stated that he would arrive in about thirty minutes. After the posse of troopers started to back off, we were able to speak to Deputy McMillen regarding why they were there. He then received a statement from Duty Officer Sgt. VanLeuvan over the radio and we were instructed to listen to the communication. Sgt. Vanleuvan asked Deputy McMillen, "Are these people in violation of any laws?" McMillen's response, "No." Sgt. VanLeuvan responded, "That there is nothing we can do."
At that point, I head my sign high above my head to express my freedom of speech about the impeachment of Bush, Cheney and Gonzales. Trooper Tindell continued his discussion with us stating, "We can pull any of these drivers over for unnecessarily honking their horns."
It was now two minutes of noon and we decided to disband anyway. Upon further thought and discussion, I took this a step further and contacted MD State Trooper Corporal Williams at the Westminster State Police Barracks regarding the police involvement. After much difficulty with communicating my concern, I stated that I would stop by the barracks to speak to him directly.
Upon arrival at the Westminster State Police Barracks just after 2:00PM, I was greeted by Corporal Williams as he was sitting at the desk. He stated, "Before you ask anything, you are in fact breaking the law." He read article 26-101(f) of the Maryland Vehicle Law which pertained to article 22-401(b) of the Maryland Vehicle Law. Therefore, I questioned why the Troopers did not inform me of this article, but instead drove off ignoring the article and not issuing a citation. As you may imagine, I was not given a reason, yet Corporal Williams stated, "...we have a year and a day to file a charge against you." I went on asking why I was not informed of this article on Thursday, August 16, 2007 when I contacted the barracks and spoke to Sgt. Brawning about the upcoming demonstration. Again, I was not provided a reason why I was not informed about a law that I was being threatened with. I asked for an e-mail address for Lt. Richardson as was not provided one, yet I did receive the general e-mail address of email@example.com to send any further communication about this incident.
I then drove to the Carroll County Sheriff's Department in Westminster and was greeted by a young US Navy Veteran waiting to go on a ride-along with one of the deputies. We discussed how most of the soldiers hate the war and believe it is all about oil and that most of them cannot wait to get out of Iraq. I thanked him for his service to our country, regardless of the misguided actions he was forced to take while enlisted. He readily agreed and then we were greeted by Sgt. VanLeuvan. I introduced myself and briefly recapped what transpired in Eldersburg earlier that day. I informed him that we were in fact breaking the law, and that I was informed of the article by Corporal Williams of the Maryland State Police. My opinion of his reaction was shock, as he did not seem familiar with the article at all. He went and retrieved the same Maryland Vehicle Law book and looked up the article that I mentioned. He read the entire article to me, something that MSP Corporal Williams refused to do. I then asked for a photocopy of the article so that I may share the information with the Carroll County Progressives to ensure that we did not continue to break that law in the future and he politely read each sub-heading individually to me so that I could write it down on my tablet. I thanked Sgt. VanLeuvan and left the Sheriff's Office.
I must say, I was quite surprised that the following officers and county official did not inform me of this article when I contacted them to ensure that I was not in violation of any laws, prior to the demonstration:
- Sergeant Brawning of the Westminster State Police Barracks
- Sergeant VanLeuvan of the Carroll County Sheriff's Department
- Captain Jay Gribbin III of the Hampstead Police Department
- Chief John Williams of the Sykesville Police Department
- Chief William Spaulding of the Westminster Police Department
- Carroll County Attorney Kim Millender
From this moment forward, the Carroll County Progressives demonstration will not be in violation of this article any further and will change their signage accordingly for future demonstrations. Stay tuned to this web page this week for our next planned demonstration. Much appreciation goes out to everyone that participated during this event. We will be steadfast in maintaining our right to Freedom of Speech in this county and will still attend the September 15th March in Washington. This county has not heard the last of us...
Ferndale Cops Say: Don't Honk if You Want Bush Out.
Federal Judge To Render Decision In Car Horn Honking Case http://www.wsbt.com/news/michigan/13849512.html
Ferndale violated First Amendment by punishing protesters, judge rules
DETROIT -- A U.S. district judge ruled Thursday that the city of Ferndale violated the First Amendment right to free speech when it punished anti-war protesters on Woodward and drivers who honked to support them.
District Judge Denise Page Hood, who read her opinion from her Detroit bench, said the city failed to show the honking was excessive or posed a safety hazard. Most importantly, the honks' "message of peace" -- just as that of the protesters -- is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
"For Ferndale to now claim that a honk is simply a honk is disingenuous," she said.
Nancy Goedert, a 74-year-old Ferndale resident and member of the activist group Raging Grannies, was delighted with the ruling and said she would return to Woodward and Nine Mile, where an anti-war vigil has been held every Monday since 2002. She was ticketed in June for holding a sign that read "HONK FOR PEACE."
"This time we won't have to put the little line on top that says, 'Ferndale cops say don't,'" she said.
The ruling is significant because Ferndale is the first city in Michigan to prosecute car honking in support of a demonstration, said Michael Steinberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which filed the lawsuit against the city in April on behalf of five protesters and motorists.
"We believe that with this opinion, it will be the last," he said. "Honking is a time-honored means of political expression in Michigan." After the ACLU intervened, the city dropped the charges.
In the summer of 2006, Ferndale began ticketing or arresting protesters for disturbing the peace. City police also ticketed a honking motorist, saying a city ordinance and state law limits motorists to honking only to warn others of danger.
City Attorney Dan Christ said Ferndale will await the judge's written opinion, expected within days, before deciding what to do next. In the meantime, city authorities will not interfere with the protests, he said.
"Certainly the city is not going to do anything against the court's ruling," Christ said.
Another court date will be scheduled, when the judge could award the plaintiffs nominal damages and attorney fees.
Antiwar activists fight for right to honk horn in Ferndale
January 16, 2008 Lawyers for the City of Ferndale and a group of antiwar activists argued in federal court Wednesday over the city’s ban on honking to protest the war in Iraq.
“These vigils have gone on now for five years -- 250, 1-hour vigils with no traffic accidents whatsoever,” the activists’ lawyer, Thomas Chavalier, told U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood. He urged her to declare the ban unconstitutional as an abridgment of political free speech.
The city’s lawyer, Daniel Christ, urged Hood to uphold the ban to safeguard public safety. “It’s not protected speech,” he said of honking.
Hood said she’d announce her decision Jan. 31.
The protests, held every Monday evening at Woodward and 9 Mile, began in December 2002. Activists held up signs urging motorists to honk to protest the war and President George W. Bush.
There were no problems until June 2006 when police, responding to an unrelated demonstration that got out of hand, warned protestors that they’d be ticketed if they continued to urge honking. Police said the state motor vehicle code limits horn honking to safety emergencies.
The city eventually ticketed some protestors for disorderly conduct, but dropped the charges because their signs technically didn’t urge motorists to honk. At least one motorist was ticketed for honking and paid a $145 fine.
Protesters: We have right to honk
With a slight frame, soft voice and genteel manner, Nancy Goedert doesn't exactly fit the image of a crusader.
But as she walked out of U.S. District Court in Detroit late Wednesday afternoon, she sure sounded like one.
"It's communication; communication is speech," said the Ferndale resident. "Speech is covered by the First Amendment."
Indeed it is, but the question facing a judge who has to decide a federal lawsuit involving a group of anti-war protesters and the city of Ferndale is whether speech can include honking, even if it is for peace.
U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood said Wednesday she'll issue a ruling Jan. 31 on whether anti-Iraq war protesters at Nine Mile and Woodward violated the law in 2006 when they held up signs encouraging passing motorists to honk for peace.
A group that includes Goedert, Victor Kittila of Eastpointe and James Grimm of Clawson has staged more than 250 vigils each Monday night to protest the war in Iraq. Problems began in June 2006, when Ferndale police arrested some of the protesters for inciting motorists to honk, and ticketed a motorist who honked in response.
ACLU attorney Thomas Cavalier and Ferndale City Attorney Daniel Christ argued before the judge Wednesday in a case that's garnered national media attention for its free speech implications.
Christ maintains protesters violated the law when they incited motorists to honk, compromising traffic safety and causing a commotion with the noise.
Cavalier said honking in that situation is a form of personal expression and communication, thereby protected by the Constitution.
As for the traffic concerns, Cavalier said, "There have been no accidents that have resulted from the honk signs or the honking. No accidents, your honor, in 250 hours of vigils."
Protesters might seek right to honk
War opponents call drivers' beeps form of free speech
Antiwar protesters demonstrate at 9 Mile and Woodward in Ferndale in August. The group stands on the corner every Monday, which led to two of the members being charged with threatening public safety. (WILLIAM ARCHIE/Detroit Free Press)
October 10, 2006 Two antiwar protesters arrested for disorderly conduct after waving signs encouraging drivers to honk in support of their cause said Monday that they now hope to challenge laws that prohibit drivers from honking as an expression of free speech.
The protesters plan to meet this week with Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, to decide whether to file a lawsuit that would ask a federal court judge to decide whether protesters encouraging drivers to honk is a form of free speech protected under the First Amendment.
Disorderly conduct charges were dismissed Oct. 3 against the two antiwar activists who were waving signs that Ferndale police argued were threatening public safety.
"I'm glad the case has been thrown out," said Victor Kittila, a 55-year-old Eastpointe resident who was arrested in July for carrying a sign that said, "Ferndale Cops Say: Don't Honk If You Want Bush Out."
Nancy Goedert, 73, who also was charged for carrying a sign with a similar message a few weeks later, said she is "glad to have that over with."
For nearly four years, Kittila, Goedert and others have protested the war every Monday at the corner of 9 Mile and Woodward.
Initially, they carried signs urging drivers to "Honk For Peace."
But, this summer, Ferndale police said they were getting complaints about the honking, and warned the protesters that they might be violating a city ordinance that says drivers should use their horns only in an emergency.
So, in response to police, the protesters changed the message on their signs -- encouraging drivers not to honk if they supported the antiwar message.
In July, police arrested Kittila, and later that month, they issued Goedert a citation.
The charge is a misdemeanor and, if convicted, they could have faced up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine. Joe Plambeck, who was cited for tooting his horn at the intersection, was ticketed and faced a $110 fine. Instead, all three had the offenses wiped from their records.
Ferndale City Attorney Dan Christ dropped the charges in 43rd District Court in Ferndale after Kittila and Goedert agreed not to carry signs that encouraged honking.
Coincidentally, Christ acknowledged that the signs the protesters were waving when they were charged -- those urging drivers not to honk -- were OK. Kittila and Goedert said they plan to keep protesting with those signs.
So, in a sense, the case is back to where it started.
"Left open is the question whether a protester may constitutionally encourage individuals to honk," Steinberg said.
Christ said the cases were never about the protests, but about public safety.
On Monday, Ferndale Police Capt. Timothy Collins said that there has been much media attention -- and confusion -- about the cases, and he said he hopes that the mess goes away.
Ferndale settles case with protesters
October 04, 2006 Charges against local antiwar protesters were dismissed Tuesday in a settlement reached with the City of Ferndale, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the National Lawyers Guild.
The protesters have picketed against the war in Iraq on the corner of 9 Mile and Woodward for about an hour each Monday evening for the past four years. Their signs urged drivers to honk in protest.
But, in July, two of the protesters were charged in 43rd District Court with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and inciting motorists to honk. The last charge is a violation of the city's no-honking ordinance.
Protesters Nancy Goedert, 73, of Ferndale and Victor Kittila, 55, of Eastpointe were carrying signs that read: "Police Say Don't Honk for Peace."
In the settlement, city officials agreed to dismiss the charges against Goedert and Kittila. City officials also agreed to return the signs, mug shots and fingerprint samples.
Goedert and Kittila agreed not to sue the city for damages. They also agreed not to carry or display signs encouraging motorists to honk unless a court deems it legal.
Goedert said Tuesday that she and the ACLU have agreed to file a federal lawsuit declaring the no-honking law unconstitutional.
She called the charges "totally ridiculous" and vowed to continue protesting.
"We will keep up the vigil for peace," Goedert said.
Granny ticketed in Ferndale sign flap
20 July, 2006 Nancy Goedert, 73, of Ferndale became the second protester in a matter of weeks to be issued a citation for demonstrating on the corner of 9 Mile and Woodward in Ferndale.
Goedert was cited Monday as she carried a sign that read "Police Say Don't Honk for Peace," mimicking Eastpointe resident Victor Kittila's sign that led to his arrest July 3.
He had been carrying a sign urging motorists to "Honk if You Want Bush Out," but Ferndale police had asked the activist to stop encouraging drivers to honk. So Kittila, 55, changed his message to "Ferndale Cops Say: Don't Honk if You Want Bush Out."
Drivers honked anyway.
Goedert, a member of the social justice group Raging Grannies, was cited for being disorderly because her sign incited motorists to honk, which violates a city noise ordinance.
Goedert said Kittila's arrest motivated her to carry the sign and prompted larger crowds of protesters to turn out. About 50 people showed up Monday and 300 on July 10. The gathering is usually about 12.
Police Capt. Timothy Collins said Wednesday the main concern was public safety.
"We just don't want people to entice people to honk," he said. "The reason being that we don't want to startle drivers. It took great pain to explain this to" protesters "and not to make it an anti-protesting thing."
Goedert said: "This is our First Amendment right. I think that we Americans have been in danger of losing our civil rights on the federal level all the way down."
William Wertheimer Jr., an attorney from Bingham Farms who specializes in First Amendment law, said key questions are whether honking is an expression of free speech or if it endangers people.
"People are asserting their First Amendment rights to say what they want to say, but the city has an interest in keeping noise down," he said.
Peace activist arrested after Ferndale protest
07 July, 2006 "Ferndale Cops Say: Don't Honk if You Want Bush Out."
That message, scrawled in permanent marker on a piece of poster board, got antiwar activist Victor Kittila arrested in Ferndale -- a move some say violated his First Amendment rights. But police say he was breaking the law. Either way, he says that next Monday, he'll be back.
The Eastpointe resident is one of a handful of activists who meet for an hour weekly on Mondays at Woodward and 9 Mile to peacefully protest the war in Iraq. They had always carried signs urging motorists to "Honk for Peace."
But about three weeks ago, after receiving several complaints from motorists, Ferndale police asked the activists to stop encouraging drivers to honk their horns, which state laws say should be use only for necessary situations.
So, Kittila, 55, changed his message from "Honk if You Want Bush Out" to "Ferndale Cops Say: Don't Honk if You Want Bush Out."
"People still honked," said Kittila, who has been protesting at the site for two years. "The noise was deafening." And Monday, the Police Department took action. At about 6 p.m., after the protest, Kittila was walking to get ice cream with fellow activists, his wife and his 13-year-old daughter when an officer approached them. The officer was going to issue Kittila a ticket, but he resisted when the officer tried to take his sign, police said. Kittila, who said the officer threatened to use a stun gun, was arrested for disorderly conduct and later released on a $500 bond, police said. He has not yet been formally charged.
Ferndale Police Chief Michael Kitchen did not return calls for comment Thursday. But Sgt. Casey O'Loughlin said there has been a steady stream of complaints about the activists since they started protesting about four years ago. He said the honking sometimes confuses drivers, who might think there is an approaching emergency.
Kittila isn't sure whether he'll make a new sign for next week's protest because he now recognizes that the city has a noise ordinance, which he may have been violating by encouraging motorists to honk.
He said his protests help raise awareness about what's going on in the world. "Why have a roadside protest if someone can't honk to show support?" he said.
"It's the whole purpose of it," he said, even though Michigan's vehicle code indicates otherwise.
The code says drivers, when it is reasonably necessary to ensure safety, should give audible warning with their horns, but should not otherwise use them when upon a highway.
Kittila's attorney, Deborah Choly, likened the protest signs to "Honk If You Love Jesus" bumper stickers. "It clearly is a violation of rights, and there was no crime committed," she said. "This sign was used as part of a political protest. It does not violate any norms of decency. It didn't even violate the request that the police had made of this group not to encourage drivers to honk."
Ferndale City Manager Tom Barwin said that through the years the protesters have received support and even encouragement from local elected officials. He said that two large protests earlier this year -- one related to the war, the other about national health care issues -- that were held in that intersection may have prompted the Police Department to more stringently enforce the state law to protect drivers.
Kim Redigan, 48, an activist who was with Kittila when he was arrested, said she was shocked because Ferndale police had always been supportive. She said they'd often honk or flash peace signs as they drove past.
"We were so dumbfounded by this," said Redigan, a Dearborn Heights resident. "We were blindsided." Barwin said officials in Ferndale -- which calls itself the city of peace -- would not violate someone's civil rights.
"People have the right of assembly," he said. "It's healthy."
Wellesley College senior Hadley Smith began the night of April 12 with her hands full of rainbow-colored chalk and ended it in the town police station.
As part of the Wellesley College Peace Coalition, Smith, 22, and other students spent the early evening scrawling onto the town center's sidewalks peace signs and quotations from Mohandas K. Gandhi.
Someone followed them back to their dormitory, copied down the license plate number of the car Smith was driving, and contacted Wellesley police, according to the police report.
That led to an evening in jail for Smith and her fellow students, an experience that has led to misgivings on the campus of 2,300 students about the way police handled the incident. A spokesman for Wellesley police said the students were not mistreated.
Parker said college administrators suggested that students start up a dialogue with local police, but she has not followed up on the idea and has encouraged angry students to put their energies toward peace activism instead.
Our encounter with them demonstrated that they're not interested in dialogue," she said. I'm not giving up on them, but it was a very intimidating experience."
Jury acquits young chalk artists. Mount Clemens officials said drawings violated ordinance.
Beauty in eye of jurors. Youths say chalk drawings meant to enhance city. http://www.macombdaily.com/stories/031308/loc_local01.shtml
Art debate rages on after teens ticketed for drawing chalk mural
July 26, 2007 Three young artists charged with vandalizing a water fountain after they used chalk to design colorful murals have again raised the issue of what constitutes art in public places in downtown Mount Clemens. Police say the three were caught in the act of drawing figures on the fountain on Macomb Place late one night and ticketed with defacing public property, a 90-day misdemeanor.
While the trio acknowledges they composed the freestyle designs on the floor of the fountain, they did not use vulgar language or objectionable figures. Their goal was to make the fountain more attractive to passers-by.
"We hear everyone talking about art in public places and we were just drawing a mural," said Corinne Denomme, 18, a recent graduate of Arts Academy in the Woods in Warren. "We just wanted to draw a mural to let people see it and enjoy it."
Macomb County Sheriff's Capt. Anthony Wickersham, however, sees it differently.
"We view it as a nuisance," Wickersham said.
According to police, in the days leading up to the city's first-ever Stars & Stripes Festival in late June, local merchants and city public works crews were cleaning up the downtown section in anticipation of new people coming into the city.
Some business owners complained to the sheriff's office about the graffiti and drawings on the sidewalk and in the fountain that appeared to be done in the overnight hours. Sheriff's deputies on the midnight shift were ordered to keep an eye out on the area and one night deputies spotted the trio drawing designs in chalk. The three were immediately stopped and issued misdemeanor tickets.
"They were caught in the act and they admitted to the other designs that had been the target of complaints," Wickersham said.
While the young artists -- who say police dubbed them as the "Chalk Bandits" even though there was no robbery involved -- have shown photographs of their designs to the media to prove there was nothing objectionable, police have their own set of photos.
Pictures taken by police as evidence show a number of crudely-drawn stick figures and other drawings.
That's easily explained by Spencer Preston, one of the so-called bandits.
"When some of the drunks or other people were walking by, they'd kind of make fun of us at first and then they we let them do some drawing," said Preston, a current student at the art academy. "It's fun to watch their psychological change when they realized they could make art."
Vince Mazzola, the other artist, said he never would have drawn in the fountain if there had been some type of warning sign. He said the trio was not trying to make trouble for anyone.
"We wanted to improve the overall vibe of the downtown but all of a sudden we're involved in this big battle over art," Mazzola said.
The controversy comes at a time when Mount Clemens city officials recently expressed outrage over another art project involving children painting area fire hydrants. Some of the messy paint jobs have officials demanding the hydrants be re-painted.
Dan Nevin, owner of Thomas Nevin Jewelers near the fountain, said while he wouldn't want the chalk drawings in front of his store, he found nothing objectionable about the mural. "I think they did a nice job," he said.
Arthur Mullen, executive director of the city's Downtown Development Authority, said there are mixed messages being sent to residents interested in art in public places. He said it's possible an area of the city could be set up for artists to express themselves.
"Right now we have no answers, but we may need to discuss this and establish some guidelines," he said.
Teen questioned for online Bush threats
ACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Upset by the war in Iraq, Julia Wilson vented her frustrations with President Bush last spring on her Web page on MySpace.com. She posted a picture of the president, scrawled "Kill Bush" across the top and drew a dagger stabbing his outstretched hand. She later replaced her page on the social-networking site after learning in her eighth-grade history class that such threats are a federal offense.
It was too late.
Federal authorities had found the page and placed Wilson on their checklist. They finally reached her this week in her molecular biology class.
The 14-year-old freshman was taken out of class Wednesday and questioned for about 15 minutes by two Secret Service agents. The incident has upset her parents, who said the agents should have included them when they questioned their daughter.
On Friday, the teenager said the agents' questioning led her to tears.
"I wasn't dangerous. I mean, look at what's (stenciled) on my backpack - it's a heart. I'm a very peace-loving person," said Wilson, an honor student who describes herself as politically passionate. "I'm against the war in Iraq. I'm not going to kill the president."
Her mother, Kirstie Wilson, said two agents showed up at the family's home Wednesday afternoon, questioned her and promised to return once her daughter was home from school.
After they left, Kirstie Wilson sent a text message to her daughter's cell phone, telling her to come straight home: "There are two men from the secret service that want to talk with you. Apparently you made some death threats against president bush."
"Are you serious!?!? omg. Am I in a lot of trouble?" her daughter responded. Moments later, Kirstie Wilson received another text message from her daughter saying agents had pulled her out of class.
Julia Wilson said the agents threatened her by saying she could be sent to juvenile hall for making the threat.
"They yelled at me a lot," she said. "They were unnecessarily mean."
Spokesmen for the Secret Service in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., said they could not comment on the case.
Wilson and her parents said the agents were justified in questioning her over her MySpace.com posting. But they said they believe agents went too far by not waiting until she was out of school.
They also said the agents should have more quickly figured out they weren't dealing with a real danger. Ultimately, the agents told the teen they would delete her investigation file.
Assistant Principal Paul Belluomini said the agents gave him the impression the girl's mother knew they were planning to question her daughter at school. There is no legal requirement that parents be notified.
"This has been an ongoing problem," said Ann Brick, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in San Francisco.
Former Govs. Pete Wilson and Gray Davis vetoed bills that would have required that parents give consent or be present when their children are questioned at school by law enforcement officers. A similar bill this year cleared the state Senate but died in the Assembly.
Julia Wilson plans to post a new MySpace.com page, this one devoted to organizing other students to protest the Iraq war.
"I decided today I think I will because it (the questioning) went too far," she said.
Painted into a corner, artist obscures nudity in his mural. Facing jail time, the Roseville man cloaks Eve's naked chest with a black cloth. http://www.detnews.com/2005/metro/0502/21/B01-95677.htm
U.S. Watch Lists Sow Frustration and Fear
Elizabeth Kushigian spent time in an isolation room at Miami International Airport every time she returned from an international trip -- until a senator got her taken off a DHS watchlist. For years, Elizabeth Kushigian never had a problem flying back-and-forth to Costa Rica, where she runs a local micro-lending nonprofit. But in 2004, she suddenly found it impossible to re-enter the United States without being ordered into a special isolation room at Miami International Airport. There, she'd wait for extra scrutiny.
"I was in the line where you come in and stamp your passport, and each time they would scan the passport and look at (the) screen and stiffen," Kushigian says. "I was on some sort of list. I don't know why; it could have been because of something I did in the '60s and in the early 1980s, I did some civil disobedience on behalf of El Salvador."
Kushigian is just a member of a growing club of American citizens whose lives have been touched by a slew of government watch lists proliferating with little oversight or redress mechanisms since the 9/11 attacks. Containing, by some estimates, hundreds of thousands of names submitted by dozens of agencies, the lists have not only snagged people like Kushigian -- who wind up on them for mysterious reasons -- they've also stigmatized and inconvenienced thousands of others whose names happen to be similar to an entry on the list.
The issue returned to national debate last week after one of the nation's most respected constitutional law professors was told by an airline official that he'd been placed on a watch list for his criticism of the president, a claim that U.S. officials deny.
Kushigian's hassles at the airport ranged from minor delays to full-blown interrogations. The second time she was pulled aside at the border, officials with the Bureau of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement demanded to know how she could afford to travel on her salary. When she explained that she'd inherited money from her father, they peppered her with questions about what his factory used to make, and what charities he donated to.
"It was unnerving sitting in that little room even for a short period of time, Kushigian says. "You get a sense of what people who are not senators and not citizens go through."
Kushigian tried to figure out why she'd been targeted by filing a Freedom of Information Act request, but learned nothing. Then she turned to her elected representatives in Massachusetts, including Sen. Ted Kennedy, who himself was famously fingered by a watch list in 2004. Eventually Kennedy's office sent along a letter signed by the head of Immigration and Customs, which said in part: "With respect to Mrs. Kushigian's specific situation, we are pleased to report that action has been taken in order that she not be subjected to automatic special attention when arriving at U.S. Ports-of-Entry."
Kushigian was one of the lucky ones: Winning even a tacit acknowledgement that she was on a list is a rare victory over the federal homeland security bureaucracy. Tens of thousands of travelers have applied to get help from the Transportation Security Administration, which now has three lists: a no-fly list of persons considered too dangerous to be allowed on a plane or cruise ship; a selectee list of people who must undergo extra screening to fly; and a white list of persons who have names similar to those on the other lists, but who are not threats.
The last publicly reported tally of the no-fly and selectee lists in October 2006 put the combined number of names at 119,000. The current number is a closely guarded secret, but Homeland Security officials announced earlier this year that it cut the no-fly list in half after hand-reviewing the names, which are submitted by a hodgepodge of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Despite that, last month constitutional scholar Walter F. Murphy, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus at Princeton University, found himself unable to check in curbside at a New Mexico airport. A check-in clerk with American Airlines told him it was because he was on a "terrorist watch list," Murphy says.
"One of them, I don't remember which one, asked me, 'Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying for that,'" recalls Murphy. "I said, 'No, but I did give a speech criticizing George Bush,' and he said, 'That will do it.'"
Incensed at the thought that the administration was using an anti-terrorism measure for political purposes, Murphy publicized his run-in through a prominent law blog, Balkinization. His accusations lit up the comment boards on several influential websites.
The evidence remains thin that Murphy was actually on a watch list -- he was able to get a boarding pass on his return trip -- but the incident shows how the watch list programs have put their imprint on America's consciousness. It's in the very nature of secret watch lists to induce paranoia, says Lee Tien, an Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer and longtime critic of government watch lists.
"If (the lists) weren't secret, you would know if you were on one and you would be able to scream about it," Tien says. "Without accountability, they will be stupid or evil; and without transparency, there's no way to tell the difference."
Following a string of high profile cases of watch lists snaring innocent travelers -- ranging from U.S. armed forces personnel, to prominent politicians and nuns -- the Department of Homeland Security launched a website in February to help out people who are wrongly matched with names on the list. Travelers can fill out a complaint form online, and so far, 3,700 people have applied for help.
That's a big change for the government, which didn't even admit that it had a no-fly list until fall of 2002. The existence of a second list, known as the "selectee list", was also kept secret until it surfaced in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and first reported by Wired News.
Those lists also largely derived from the "unified terrorist watch list," a blend of information from intelligence agencies and the FBI that's also shared with the FBI's National Crime Information Center. The NCIC database is queried nearly any time a cop or county sheriff makes an arrest or pulls someone over for speeding.
The Treasury Department runs a separate list known as the OFAC list (short for Office of Foreign Assets Control), which is the only published government anti-terrorism watch list. The 250-page long list includes organizations and individuals with which American companies are prohibited from doing business.
While there are almost no American citizens on the OFAC list, it is routinely used during home purchases, credit checks and even apartment rentals, and has caused people with common Latino and Muslim names to be denied mortgages for having a name that only vaguely resembles a name on the list, according to a recent report (.pdf) from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.
The transparency of the public OFAC list is a double-edged sword: Unlike the other watch lists, people can easily determine if a name similar to theirs is on the OFAC list. At the same time, because it's unclassified and published, the OFAC is widely used by companies that run background checks. The potential for of civil liberties abuse is high, says Shirin Shinnar, who wrote the LCCR report.
"If you are denied an apartment or a job, you often aren't told at all why -- let alone that it was because you were identified as a possible terrorist," Shinnar says.
Just as murky is the question of how useful the lists actually are. The Transportation Security Administration refuses to provide any statistics on whether the lists have ever prevented any known terrorist from boarding a plane.
For its part, the Terrorist Screening Center, which compiles the unified terrorist watch list created by a 2003 presidential directive, did not respond with a request for comment. But a 2005 Inspector General report (.pdf) found the center's database of hundreds of thousand of records was plagued with technical difficulties and inaccurate entries.
Over the last two years we've become obsessed with security, and put in place a whole host of policies and procedures that will do... exactly what? In his latest book, BEYOND FEAR, security expert Bruce Schneier explains how security really works. The key is to think of security not in absolutes, but in terms of sensible trade-offs, whether on a personal or global scale. Schneier's practical approach to problem-solving is a refreshing antidote to today's doomsday pessimism and anxiety. With the technical know-how and common sense that have made him one of the world's top security experts, Schneier shows how we can move beyond fear to start thinking sensibly and creatively about security.
Web site that tracks 911 calls ignites concerns about security
John Eberly wasn't looking for controversy. The 31-year-old Ballard resident just wanted a better way to track the whereabouts of fire trucks and emergency vehicles in the city, a service he said could help people avoid traffic bottlenecks, protests or dangerous situations such as gas leaks.
For the past year, Eberly has operated Seattle911.com, a Web site that until this week took real-time feeds of 911 calls from the Seattle Fire Department and plotted them on Google Maps. The site developed a cult following, with up to 200 unique visitors per day. The Seattle P-I incorporated the service into its Web site.
But on Tuesday night, Eberly, a reseller of Internet phone service who runs Seattle911.com during his spare time, noticed that something was amiss. The data feed was no longer working with his site.
Citing "security concerns," the Seattle Fire Department unexpectedly altered the way it displays 911 calls on its Web site, changing the format from text to graphics. That made it more difficult for Eberly to incorporate the public data into his Web site.
"Our intent is to enhance the safety of personnel and the public but still provide information about current emergencies in our community," the Fire Department wrote on its Web site.
Fire officials worry that visually displaying where fire crews are on an Internet map jeopardizes firefighters' safety and could make things easier if terrorists were planning an attack, Fire Department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick said.
"That's where the security issue comes in because it shows where all our resources are at one time on a map," Fitzpatrick said.
That logic left Eberly and others scratching their heads. The information continues to be publicly available on the Fire Department's Web site. It is just now being displayed in a manner that is harder for people to use, they say.
Furthermore, technical experts say it is very easy to convert the feed into a text format -- thus rendering the Fire Department's fix virtually useless.
"It is kind of idiotic," said Bruce Schneier, a security guru and author of "Beyond Fear." "It comes from addressing the symptom and not the problem, which doesn't help." Eberly equates the Fire Department's reaction to placing a giant padlock on a flimsy door.
"It is an illusion of protection for them," he said. "If they are really worried about it, they should pull the whole thing off the Web entirely. I don't see any difference from this data compared to listening in on a scanner of police or fire calls." He noted that the Seattle911.com service just picked up calls from the Fire Department log.
Mike Christianson, a Seattle software engineer and frequent user of Seattle911.com, said it is relatively simple to counteract the Fire Department's measures.
"Almost any half-competent software engineer or Web geek can come up with a solution for converting the image back into text within an hour or two," Christianson said.
Eberly said it took just a few changes in the code to get around the new format, but he doesn't plan to implement it "because they're obviously trying to prevent stuff like that."
The Fire Department's dispatch log, which gets about 320,000 hits per day, functions by displaying addresses and types of emergencies as fire crews are called out. Each entry changes color when the call is closed. The screen, which used to update in seconds, now refreshes every minute.
Initially, city officials proposed mapping Fire Department 911 calls in real-time on the Internet as part of the city's "My Neighborhood" project. The Web site, launched this year, sorts crime statistics and other data by neighborhood into online maps. But Fire Department administrators opted not to include its dispatch calls for security reasons.
But during discussion about that project, fire officials discovered that an outside Web site already was using the information. That prompted the department to change the log's format so it would be harder to use for mapping purposes, Fitzpatrick said.
"We're not obligated to provide this information. It's something that we did for customer service in the first place," she said.
But in making those changes it frustrated some frequent users. Seattle resident Bruce Miller said he visits the Fire Department's Web site regularly because, "If there is a siren in the neighborhood, I like to know what is going on." But since changing to a graphic format, Miller said he has been unable to increase the text's font size. Furthermore, he said it is nearly impossible to access the information on his PDA.
"You need an atomic microscope to read it," said Miller, who would check the site before making trips to the airport. He calls the Fire Department's decision "ridiculous."
"It is a very valuable service, but it is not so valuable anymore," he said.
Fitzpatrick said the department will add accommodations for people who are sight-impaired and others who are inconvenienced by the change. It is still accessible to some PDAs, she said.
Schneier, the security expert, says the Seattle Fire Department's decision raises an interesting social question about the use of public information. He said it is the same issue as posting political donations or property records on Web sites.
"What the Fire Department is saying, which is interesting if you think about it, is that we are going to rely on the inconvenience of automating this to give you privacy," Schneier said. "The government is not saying, 'Hey, this data needs to be secret,' they are saying, 'This data needs to be inconvenient to get to.' "