In what can only be categorized as a state-wide crack down on the filming of police, multiple incidents have emerged this past week alone resulting in the arrest, intimidation, and assault of various Virginia residents.
First, in Norfolk on June 7, Police Sergent Peele, who is assigned to the Homeland Security Division, arrested Jeremiah Schwenk for simply recording an encounter his friend was having with officers on a crowded street.
Peele accused Schwenk of causing a disturbance, interfering with police activity, and blocking pedestrian traffic even though he had not said a word until he was approached by Officer Peele. Not to mention, the public sidewalk pedestrian traffic was flowing freely.
In the video below, Peele repeatedly harasses and intimidates Schwenk demanding that he stop recording his friends encounter as he persistently positions himself in front of the camera to interfere with the footage. Finally, Peele is unable to contain his anger any longer, especially after Schwenk asks for his name and badge number, and smacks the camera down and proceeds to make the arrest.
Next, on Tuesday, June 10, a Virginia teen ended up hospitalized with a concussion after police struck him on the side of the head with a baton for video recording them.
The video shows a Petersburg Police Officer advancing toward, yelling at, and intimidating 19-year-old Devin Thomas, who was filming an incident in his neighborhood before being assaulted and arrested by Prince George Officer Vance Richards.
Thomas was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Finally, in Richmond, occurring on Tuesday, June 10 as well, Justin Faison was assaulted, handcuffed, and thrown onto a car by Officer Farrhard El-Amin and other officers after daring to record a group of Richmond cops arresting a neighbor who lives close to his mother’s home.
Faison casually asked why his neighbor was being arrested, which, of course, prompted El-Amin to demand his identification and get belligerent.
Faison told him he was not required to provide identification, which is true considering the cop had no reasonable suspicion that he was committing a crime. This was all it took for Fasion to be brutalized.
These three incidents work well to illustrate the contempt Virginia police officers (and all officers) have with being held accountable by citizens. Recorded footage is hard evidence that can not be argued about. That is why there is a push nationwide to lump the filming of police in with wiretapping crimes.
Advocates of the police state are always telling those who oppose it, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” Why is this standard not expected for police as well? While citizens have a right to privacy, police are supposed to be public servants. They are on the public payroll. This means they should be held accountable for their crimes. This means it is NOT a crime to film them.
Appalachian Area News attempted to contact the Fraternal Order of Police in Virginia to inquire if an actual internal campaign had been launched to resist citizen journalism and the filming of police. Our requests for comment were denied.
After doing some searching it appears there is no formal campaign to quell recording police in Virginia. Rather, it seems these actions are contingent of a greater problem. Most police officers think they are God and can do what ever they want just because they dress up in a funny costume and wield a shinny piece of metal…