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Photographers and police: a First Amendment clash

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A growing list of police seizures cameras and destroyed pictures is testing the Constitution’s First Amendment protections. In a New Orleans case this week, two “copwatch” activists failed to win a civil conviction against New Orleans police officers who three years ago confiscated their cameras, erased footage, and arrested them for “crossing a police cordon” during the Bacchus Krewe Mardi Gras parade.

There’s more:

  • A famous YouTube clip shows a citizen videographer running away from a police officer trying to grab his camera after another officer allegedly shot a handcuffed man, Oscar Grant, in the back at a crowded public transit station in Oakland, Calif., on New Year’s Day 2009. (The officer claimed he thought his gun was a Taser, but citizen video evidence was used to bring murder charges.)
  • After a three-year legal battle over Miami photographer Carlos Miller’s arrest on a public street for refusing to stop taking pictures of several police officers, Mr. Miller saw all the charges dropped this week. (His compendium of such incidents can be seen here: carlosmiller.com)
  • The Boston Globe recently wrote a series about Massaschusetts police using an obscure wiretap law to confiscate crime-scene video recordings collected by passers-by.
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