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GOP Congressman Has Police Confiscate Cameras From Democrats At Town Hall



Staffers for a Republican U.S. Congressman had local police officers confiscate cellphone cameras from two Democrats at his August 22 town hall meeting while he was speaking. Although there were two cameras from the main stream media filming the event, staffers for GOP Congressman Steve Chabot of Ohio claimed ordinary citizens were not allowed to film “for security reasons,” and local police did not question the Congressman’s wishes.

Irtonically, and what should be of great concern to all Americans is that Chabot sits on the Committee on the Judiciary, the Subcommittee on the Constitution, and on the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet. Imagine the types of laws he will be crafting.

Scott Keyes of Think Progress reports the “town hall meeting was riddled with protests [Monday] as voters voiced their frustration with the GOP’s focus on deep spending cuts rather than providing jobs.”

“Fearing pushback on issues like ending Medicare and corporate tax dodging, Chabot took an extraordinary step in order to prevent a possible “Youtube moment”: he banned constituents from filming the town hall. Outside the town hall were multiple signs reading, “For Security Purposes, Cameras Are NOT Permitted.” In fact, on at least two separate occasions, middle-aged constituents who tried to record the public event had their cameras confiscated and were asked to leave.

“Media were permitted to record the event, making the ban on citizen cameras all the more baffling. Clearly no “security” threat existed; rather, as one of Chabot’s staffers told ThinkProgress, they wanted to “prevent” people from “making a show” of the event. Indeed, Chabot and his staff were worried enough about citizens voicing their anger at his policies that they only accepted pre-screened questions chosen by the congressman’s staff.”

Clearly this is a First Amendment issue, and the rights of these citizens were violated by the Congressman’s office and by police, all of whom should have known better, or at the very least stopped to wonder how many laws they were violating by confiscating cameras and ejecting citizens who had every legal right to attend the meeting, and to record it.

And if you think this is a partisan issue, guess again.

The leader of the ultra-right wing Tea Party group, Tea Party Nation’s Judson Phillips called Chabot “America’s dumbest Republican Congressman” for this stunt. Phillips adds,

“I don’t know any other way to put this.  Chabot is a moron.  First, you cannot confiscate the property of a private citizen without a warrant or some other due process.  Second, and I will type this slowly just in case Chabot is reading this so he will understand this.  PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT A CRIME.

“If you go in public, you can expect to be photographed and recorded on video.  Perhaps Chabot should go back and read the Constitution.

“A call to Congressman Chabot’s office in Washington referred TPN to Chabot’s spokesman in his District office.  Repeated calls to that office were not answered, as the line remained busy.

“Perhaps the call the Congressman should get is a call to learn what the Bill of Rights guarantees or a call to get out of his job.”

Gannett’s local news site reports,

“Tim Burke, the chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, has written a letter to Cincinnati City Solicitor John Curp asking for an explanation of ‘the legal basis for the seizure and the enforcement by Cincinnati police of rules created by the Congressman.’

“Signs were taped to the doors to the hall where the Monday night meeting was held saying that no video cameras were allowed inside.

“But David Little, a Cincinnati Democrat working with ProgressOhio, a liberal organization, and Liz Ping, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for the Ohio House last year, were taking video at the event. Little was using an iPhone video camera while Ping, who was taping the meeting for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was using a flip video camera mounted on a stand. About 100 persons were present – most of whom were clearly not supporters of the 1st District Republican congressman.

“A Cincinnati police officer was present at the request of Chabot’s staff. Chabot spokesman Jamie Schwartz said that the House Sergeant at Arms has advised members of the House to coordinaate with local law enforcement on all public events.

“Burke also filed a public records reuest for all records relating to Chabot’s use of the city facility, any instructions given to law enforcement officials regarding videotaping, and any record relating to the seizure of the cameras.

“Schwartz said that a staff member asked the police officer to take the cameras being operated by Little and Ping. The seizure can be seen clearly on a YouTube video. The cameras were returned to the two Democrats after the meeting.”

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