8/30/2008Arizona: Man Taping Photo Radar Protest Arrested
Police in Scottsdale, Arizona arrest a man for videotaping activists protesting a photo radar van.
Police in Scottsdale, Arizona arrested a man late Wednesday claiming he "obstructed" a photo radar van. Jason Shelton, 35, had been videotaping a pair of anti-camera activists at 6800 E. Shea Boulevard before being taken into custody. The protesters held signs calling the speed camera program a rip-off and advertising the group CameraFraud.com in an impromptu demonstration. Shelton intended to post his video on Freedom's Phoenix, an Arizona-based political opinion and news website. Enraged local officials did what they could to ensure that would not happen.
"The City of Scottsdale, including the police department, respects and protects an individual's right to stage and/or participate in a lawful demonstration," Scottsdale Police said in a statement. "However, behavior such as the intentional obstruction of a contracted photo enforcement van's operation is not lawful and subject to enforcement action."
Videotape of an earlier protest documented a similar demonstration. An activist held a sign reading "FRAUD" in front of a photo radar van's camera as the fully automated system continued in a vain attempt to photograph passing traffic. At no point did the protester touch the photo radar van or its driver. The video also showed the van's driver, an elderly man, used a cell phone presumably to ask his Australian employer, Redflex, for guidance on how to deal with the situation. At a subsequent protest, police were called to the scene after a phone call was made and Shelton was placed under arrest.
Scottsdale Police charged Shelton with "obstruction of government operations" (ARS 13-2402) and "refusing to provide truthful name when lawfully detained" (ARS 13-2412). The former charge requires Scottsdale to show that Shelton used or threatened to use "violence or physical force." Video evidence showed the protest was entirely peaceful. Refusing to provide a name to a police officer is only a crime if that officer had a reasonable basis to believe the suspect had committed a crime. According to Shelton's colleagues, his only crime was exercising his rights under the First Amendment.
"The person who was arrested was not a demonstrator, but rather a journalist who was videographing the event for local media site FreedomsPhoenix.com," a statement on the CameraFraud website explained. "The person who was arrested never held up a sign the entire evening. Scottsdale Police never arrested the two persons who were actually holding signs."
Scottsdale Police have a history of using arrest powers to intimidate political opposition and support the goals of its photo ticketing program. A judge released Shelton on his own recognizance on Thursday.