More Police Harrasment; Who’s the Press?

  • More Police Harrasment; Who’s the Press?
    Here is Urbana (IL) two students were recently arrested for “obstruction” while observing a police officer question two black men he had pulled over. You can read a summary of the story on the front page of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center site. I’m certain this is not an uncommon occurance here or in almost any city, but this type of incident raises an important question: when does observing become obstruction? Or, more directly: when is watching the police (or any authority) in public illegal? I offer this answer: it’s illegal when you’re not an officially recognized observer–i.e. the mainstream press. Would these two students have been harrassed and arrested if they were reporters from the local CBS affiliate? What if they were reporters from the local daily newspaper? If not, why not?

    This ties in with the FBI visit on the Seattle IMC (detailed below) — it’s doubtful that the FBI would have been so cavalier in visiting and making demands of the New York Times. What becomes clear is that only certain members of society are privileged observers whose job it is to see and digest the events of the day for the rest of us. From the standpoint of the powers that be (from the government to corporate powers) the average citizen cannot be trusted to do this for herself or others. In effect, the lines of power dictate that the average person is not the press, and therefore does not enjoy the same constitutional protection for her activities.

    More on this topic soon…

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