A dangerous mix: ‘First Amendment auditors’ and armed police


As more and more people try to monetize YouTube fame, they are resorting to ever more dangerous acts. We see that in the case of so-called ‘First Amendment Auditors’. These are people who use their First Amendment rights to deliberately provoke police officers in public and actively seeking a hostile response, record the resulting encounter, post the videos on the internet, and make money from the views they generate.

Auditors show up with their cameras at places as mundane as post offices, or as imposing as the entrances to nuclear-weapons factories. Once there, they start filming, and wait to see how police react.

Over the past few years, First Amendment auditing has also become a cutthroat YouTube industry, with auditors taking increasingly aggressive positions in encounters with police, knowing that if they are to get arrested or grabbed by a cop it will boost their views and build their online profiles. There are dozens of auditors on YouTube. While their videos typically get just tens of thousands of views, big channels or viral videos can net millions. Auditors say they’re often deluged with death threats, but they aren’t sure whether they’re coming from police supporters, trolls—or their own YouTube rivals.

But arrests are just fine for some auditors, who will likely see their fame in the movement (and their YouTube ad income) rise with each arrest. The law on filming in public places is straightforward, according to Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. As long as auditors are filming in public space, anything that’s “plainly visible in public spaces” is fair game.

“It’s never really needed to go to the Supreme Court,” Stanley told The Daily Beast.

Padilla’s videos are filled with the exact kind of insults that gets cops mad and viewers revved up. In the San Antonio strip-mall video, for example, he repeatedly taunted each new officer who appeared on the scene. In another video, Padilla berated a police officer with anti-gay slurs, calling him a “f—-t.”

It is perfectly legal to make videos in public places of government officials such as police doing the jobs, something that police tended to violate in the past but less so now as it has sunk in that trying to stop people from filming rarely ends well for them. Filming police when they are violating someone’s rights can serve a valuable purpose.

But deliberately provoking police when they are engaged in lawful activity, and using racial and anti-gay slurs to provoke them simply to boost your viewer numbers seems wrong, not to mention highly dangerous given that they are armed.

Comments

  1. Holms says

    The more provocative a person is, the stronger the case is against them that they were harassing people / creating a public nuisance. Also, people can be issued a trespass warning if they remain inside a public space, even if it is a government building. Thus the only way they can do this douchebaggery completely free of legal liability is from the footpath, and only if they are not being a tool.

  2. Holms says

    Yes. Sovereign citizen (and related) videos are an interest of mine, and by far the majority of those auditor types are white, or pass quite well. In fact even those that don’t pass well are only really given away by their accent.

  3. jrkrideau says

    I would have though that if the auditor was offensive enough he could be charged with assault—well, at least under Canadian law—or alternatively face a civil action for slander.

  4. says

    If they can’t take a little bit of heat, they shouldn’t be on the force. If they think violence is an appropriate response, they’re unfit to serve. Fuck ’em.

    And good on these guys for exposing the fascist pigs.

  5. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I would have though that if the auditor was offensive enough he could be charged with assault—well, at least under Canadian law—or alternatively face a civil action for slander.

    In American common law, taunting someone AFAIK isn’t really assault. Common law assault is threatening someone with bodily harm. I’d be a little surprised if Canada was different.

    It’s definitely not actionable slander in American law -- any reasonable person in the audience is not going to take the insults seriously. Again, I’d be surprised if Canadian law was sufficiently different.

    In the past, this would be a fighting words offense: insulting someone in a way that could precipitate a retaliatory attack. The original fighting words case, at a superficial examination, was precisely this: someone mouthing off to a cop. However, since then, SCOTUS has ruled that persons cannot be charged with fighting words when the fighting words are directed at a cop. No idea about Canadian law on fighting words. AFAIK, fighting words is a uniquely American law.

    Breaking the peace maybe? Breaking the peace is a great catch-all offense.

  6. Fred Swords says

    American civil rights activits called First Ammendment Auditors are intentionally seeking conflict with police and government just to taunt and prod hoping one will make a mistake just for the sake of sensationalistic journalism and their own arrogant egos. Their intent is not to exercise the rights we all have but to abuse them to harass anyone in the government. Their own cherished videos and posts show intent to harrass.
    Sooner or later with these people multiplying with government discontent there will be a tragic incident. They aren’t exercising their rights, they are abusing them. The police need a recourse and this may be it.

    First Ammendment Auditors Audited

    First Ammendment Auditors. A waste of time, money, resources, and lastly oxygen on their part. Under their legal rights the show up at government establishments to legally film. Their sole intent is to harass the government agency and the police who show up to investigate flaunting petulantly and abusing our rights.

    There is a solution. File a protective order. Film their behavior and then simply follow them to their vehicle or nearby vehicles for attempted ID. Police can do this easily with causeless plate checks. Upon positive ID file the order. Their own videos show harrassing behavior and belligerence in them. If anyone in the building even has a protective order against anyone the officer can investigate if it is this person. Tactics and planning. Once they start getting protective orders against them there is probable cause to check ID check for one. Just a few publicized orders could make this easy.

    The officer has the right to check if a protective order is being violated which is possible due to the bad behavior of some. That’s reasonable suspicion. That is a legal criminal investigation requiring ID. Not wise to say no. I know how laws can be manipulated from both sides. Police responding to calls are valid. A government employee calling police for suspicious behavior is all that is required.

    Next audit:

    Person filming government building.
    Officer approaches.

    Officer:
    Excuse me I am responding to a call of suspicious activity and the possible commision of a crime. May I get your ID?

    Auditor:
    No! What crime? You have no right to bother me. Go away.

    Officer:
    You are now under arrest for disobeying a lawful command of an officer during a criminal investigation further hindering the performance of my duty. Get down on the ground and place your hands on your head.
    *GRINS*

    Auditor:
    *whimper*

    Just because you have a right to something it doesn’t always mean you should. In Washington state you have a right to sexual intercourse with animals. Go fulfill your rights there on that right especially the more rabid thinking ones like Jason Bassler the abuse pandering administration of The Free Thought Project 4.0. I know how they are from personal experience. Just visit The Nexus Reviews Page on Facebook to see how civily I was treated on my very first post with the Group.

    Links:
    https://www.facebook.com/thenexusreviewspage

    https://thefreethoughtproject.com/

    Legal reference here:
    https://www.civillawselfhelpcenter.org/self-help/harassment-protection/overview-of-protection-orders

    Thank you,

    Fredrick Alan Swords