Who's Taping Whom? ; Video Cameras Clash with Civil Rights at Protests

By Michael B. Farrell writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 15, 2004 | Go to article overview

Who's Taping Whom? ; Video Cameras Clash with Civil Rights at Protests


Michael B. Farrell writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


As Angela Coppola stood on a sidewalk and pointed her silver mini- digital camera at a New York City police officer, he turned his video camera right back on her.

Ms. Coppola, an antiwar activist, says she was simply exercising her right to videotape the demonstrations held during the Republican National Convention. But the police officer, she argues, was overstepping his bounds.

"It's a form of intimidation. Why should they be monitoring us for doing this?" asks Coppola, a member of the No RNC Clearinghouse, a group organized to facilitate protests during the convention.

Widespread use of digital cameras at both large demonstrations and small antiwar rallies raises serious questions about intimidation, civil rights, and privacy. Should police be able to record peaceful demonstrators? Are activists using cameras to antagonize police? As the technology becomes more pervasive, its limits are being tested in courts and questioned by civil libertarians.

Growing numbers of "video activists" say cameras protect their rights and help spread their messages. Filming a demonstration, they say, lessens the possibility of police abuse and, if abuse occurs, the tape becomes evidence.

But police, too, are attempting to protect their rights. They use video in the event protests turn violent, to investigate crimes afterward, and to transmit images through wireless cameras to police command centers. They use it for training and, they say, to investigate groups that may have links to terrorist organizations.

Now that the RNC protests are over, the efficacy of videotaping will be tested. With about 1,800 arrests during several days of protests, footage of those demonstrations is being collected and cataloged by groups like the National Lawyers Guild. Much of it will be evidence in court.

"There is a huge amount of power in these videos in terms of protecting the First Amendment," says Alan Graf, a National Lawyers Guild attorney and activist from Portland, Ore., who used video evidence in a class-action lawsuit against the city of Portland over a 2002 protest that went awry. "Normally it's [the police's] word against a scruffy protester, and the protester loses," says Mr. Graf. "This is the new tool to protect the Bill of Rights."

Filming protests of every ilk is nothing new. Documentarians have been doing this for decades. The United Mine Workers and the AFL- CIO have long used film to document strikes. Police departments and the FBI, too, routinely photograph, videotape, and conduct surveillance of radical groups.

"The camera can be a witness, and also be a deterrent," says A. Mark Liiv, a documentary filmmaker and member of Whispered Media, a San Francisco video activist collective. Mr. Liiv has been documenting political demonstrations and environmentalist actions since the mid-1990s. Today, he says, "Video is so prevalent at demonstrations" that about 1 in every 10 protesters at the protests in New York carried some kind of digital camera.

Laws pertaining to the use of video by police vary by state and are hotly debated, says Bruce Bentley of the New York chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

The New York City Police Department, the largest law-enforcement agency in the country, is bound by a federal court decree - the Handschu agreement - which originally provided that there can't be any investigation of political groups when a crime isn't present, says Franklin Siegel, a New York civil rights attorney. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Who's Taping Whom? ; Video Cameras Clash with Civil Rights at Protests
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.