Here is the interesting story of the work of a few good men in Escondido keeping the police accountable. We will keep you informed of what transpires.
The ACLU is suing the city of Escondido for three separate incidents where city police, aided by California Highway Patrol have violated the first amendment rights of protesters. The protesters were engaged in peaceful protest of the city’s border checkpoints. All three occasions included police interference of protest or peaceful filming of their activities.
When interviewed, David Loy, the legal director for the ACLU in San Diego said, “This is a clear-cut case about First Amendment rights to protest and monitor the actions of police officers. Vague boilerplate claims about traffic and officer safety do not justify trampling on the First Amendment.”
Matthew Bologna and a friend were protesting in January, 2011 when approached by officers who cited a law about not selling things within 500 feet of a freeway to compel them to move their protest. When contacted by the ACLU, the department said the officer was concerned about “driver safety, as he believed passing traffic was being distracted by the protest signs.” They did, however, admit that there was no specific policy explaining how this concern was to be handled and that police are not permitted to override the first amendment for safety concerns.
Bologna was again harassed by officers for filming their on duty operations at the checkpoint three months later. They ordered him to stop filming them, because, as they put it: “We have a policy not to have you in our operational area for officer safety reasons.” They insisted even when Bologna pointed out that he was filming on a public sidewalk on the opposite side of the street from the checkpoint.
Loy has concluded, “The time has come to resolve this in court. Escondido officers continue to violate the First Amendment. CHP has admitted that its traffic safety standard is ‘vague’ but refused to provide any guidance on when and under what circumstances it might restrict political speech in a public forum. Plaintiffs have no choice but to ask the court to protect their free speech rights.”
In the meantime, Bologna continues to hold public officials accountable. “I absolutely will continue to protest these open displays of tyranny,” he said. “I believe in freedom and that does not involve being stopped for no reason and asked to present papers.”