Reason on TV: Epstein, Judge Napolitano on Reporters Being Arrested for Having Cameras at Public Meetings


Earlier today,'s Jim Epstein posted his video of the Park Police arresting another reporter and then Jim for having cameras at a public DC Taxicab Commission meeting. Tonight at 8 pm ET, Epstein will be on Fox Business Network's Freedom Watch to discuss the war on cameras with Judge Andrew Napolitano. 

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post has an update on the story:

In another statement today, Reed said that the commission has indeed banned videotaping of its proceedings, explaining that the commission has "found television cameras to be disruptive to meetings" due to factors including "the size of the Commission hearing room, the fact that cameramen must move around and place cameras in the faces of Commissioners and guests and that some attendees have demonstrated a tendency to act in a more disruptive manner when cameras are present."

…District law is silent on whether or not photography or recordings are permitted during public proceedings. The current open meetings law has been in effect for less than a year, and there has yet to be any litigation on this particular issue. But restrictions on recording meetings of deliberative bodies are, generally speaking, unusual. D.C. Council, for instance, does not restrict audio or videotaping. However, it's not unheard of for a government body to have such restrictions. Federal courts and many state courts ban photography and recordings of what are otherwise open proceedings.

Also at the Post, John Kelly notes that he wasn't allowed back into the meeting after the arrests were made and the meeting was then carried out in secrecy:

"He's welcome to come back," the Park Police's Lt. Roxanne Brown said. Except he wasn't. He had been placed in handcuffs and taken away. So was Jim Epstein, a reporter for libertarian Reason.TV.

Reed had asked for them to be removed, and they were removed. They were charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful entry/remaining.

I followed the boycotting drivers out of the building. "He did nothing. He never disturbed the meeting," said driver Negede Abebe.

When I tried to go back in to the meeting, a very large uniformed Park Police officer barred my way. Just following orders, he shrugged.

I don't know if there were any reporters in there while Reed and the taxicab commission finished their business. Hmmm. I wonder if that's what she wanted in the first place.

At Forbes, E.D. Kain asks

Are journalists no longer allowed to take pictures or videos at public meetings? What exactly is the D.C. Taxi Commission attempting to keep under wraps at this public meeting?

For the life of me, I can't understand how this is either legal or – in any sense of the word – a smart thing to do. At least not in the age of camera phones that can upload videos to the internet.

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town: Cavanaugh on Deliberative Polling at Zócalo

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Dena C. Reed: Delicate genius or Amish? You decide.

  2. Can you imagine how hard it would be to deny the bribes if it were all recorded?


    Dude he's free..

    Free EPSTIEN!

    Dude he's out and on Fox tonight...

    Oh... FREE THE WEED!

    Dude talk to Barney...

    Er....OH! LIBYA!

  4. District law is silent on whether or not photography or recordings are permitted during public proceedings.

    Shouldn't that be "District law does not prohibit . . . ."?

    Or have we gotten all the way to That Which Is Not Mandatory is Prohibited?

    1. I agree. Regardless of what our government officials like to think, nothing is illegal if it's not written down somewhere. Nor does government have power to do anything without legal authority--in writing, again--to do so.

    2. have we gotten all the way to That Which Is Not Mandatory is Prohibited?

      Yes. Philosophically, its part of the underpinnings of bureaucracy. Whatever powers not expressly forbidden they assume they hold and can wield at their discretion.

      What makes my stomach turn are terms like, ""illegal "remaining""" being used with a reporter attending a civic *public* hearing.

      That term is typically applied to illegal immigrants outstaying limited visas/vacations... But is now conveniently tossed at American citizens whose actual job it is to cover local government. Fucking ridiculous.

      Or how about the semantic flexibility of bureaucrats... The statement also said that Tucker was """defiant and disrespectful of [Reed's] request and suggestions""

      By which they mean to avoid saying, "we ordered him to stop, and he didn't" - no, it was a *request*... which suggests the option to refuse.... but his refusal naturally is 'disrespectful'... (not illegal?)....

      If that's not a fucking "order", than what is? And why do they continue to be so adamant saying it *wasn't an order*?? Probably because they had no right to... and so need to pretend that the entire episode was a consequence of his self-generated "disruption" - not a "disruption" caused by their unlawful and arbitrary demands, of course...

      The statement does not address the immediate cause of his arrest, which Tucker said was his taking a still photograph on his cell phone.

      Shocker! ... maybe because there *is no prohibition of such*?

      and to address RC Dean's rhetorical question =
      the Open Meetings Act does not require that videotaping be allowed in Commission meeting

      ...which gets us just that much closer to "if it isn't expressly mandated... then we naturally assume we have discretionary authority to ban it on a whim"

      God, petty violations like this in some ways give off a scarier reek of Kafka than even things like Extraordinary Rendition, or NSA domestic eavesdropping/wiretapping. Its just nauseating.

    3. We've been there since the 30's and regulatory law.

  5. Does Dena Reed appear in Epstein's video? Looking at all the articles about this I can't seem to find any pictures of her.

    I think she might be a vampire.

    1. @4:14-> I believe

  6. Just wondering why ParkPolice protect the taxi commish mtgs? Doesn't look like they're meeting in a park.

    1. Maybe the meeting was in a federal building?

  7. "In another statement today, Reed said that the commission has indeed banned videotaping of its proceedings, explaining that the commission has "found television cameras to be disruptive to meetings"..."

    Be that as it may, how would that justify imprisoning Epstein after he'd already left the meeting?

    It's one thing to say, "If you don't put that camera away, we're going to detain you." But quite another to say out in the hallway, "I think that guy may have been shooting the meeting too--let's detain him!"

    I'm not saying either one's okay--but one's worse than the other. One happens while the reporting is actually in progress--the other is being enforced retroactively and after the fact.

    1. While I'm sorta sympathetic to the point you're making, the law doesn't really work like that in any other context. If you trespass on someone's land, and then later cease to trespass (ostensibly by stepping off that person's land), you've still committed trespass against them, and can be arrested for it "after the fact".

      1. I hear what you're saying, and I'm still struggling with it...

        It's one thing to say, "You must leave the meeting".

        It's another thing to arrest somebody after the meeting is over.

        We're not talking about a property crime or trespassing. If the law says, "You can't video the meeting", then they can ask you to leave. And if you refuse, maybe that's a disorderly conduct charge...

        But I think the meeting was over when they went for Epstein. If they want to go get a warrant and arrest him, maybe that's different.

        But it shouldn't be legal to detain someone on the reasonable suspicion of disorderly conduct in regards to a meeting--if the meeting was already over.

        He couldn't have been disturbing a lawful assembly when they detained him. The assembly was over.

        1. I was once arrested for disorderly conduct for disturbing a lawful assembly (which we argued wasn't, in fact, lawful). Only thing was, at the time of the arrest, the assembly was on one side of a locked door, and me and my compatriots and several police officers were on the other. There was no feasible way we could have actually disturbed the assembly, and yet touching the door was considered intent enough for the arrest and subsequent charges.

          I imagine if they did end up charging him, there argument wouldn't be that he was at the time of the arrest disturbing an assembly, but rather that he already had disturbed said assembly with the act of taking video, and the law was only just then catching up with him.

          Leaving aside the fact that they almost certainly don't have that actual authority to prevent recordings of public proceedings, if they did theoretically have that authority, the breach of law occurred the moment he started recording. Police are not required to give you warnings that you currently are or are about to break a law before they decide to arrest.

          1. That sounds absurd! I hope you were acquitted.

            I think the question regarding Epstein is in terms of charges...

            If they detained him because he broke a law by recording a public meeting, then I can understand that. I might not agree that there should ever be a law prohibiting the filming of a public meeting, but I can understand why they might detain him for that.

            But I don't see how they can justify detaining him because they want his phone. I don't see how they can justify detaining him for disorderly conduct. They should have to at least ask him to stop filming first--and have him refuse--to be disorderly conduct.

            It almost seems like being charged with resisting arrest--even though the cops never tried to arrest me.

            What you were charged with sounds absurd. And I think this was an absurd situation too. It'll be interesting to hear what they have to say on Freedom Watch tonight. I guess we'll find out.

      2. That's not a good analogy though; neither his entering the meeting nor his taking photos is illegal, as trespassing is.

  8. I find his puppy dog eyes, and 'I'm gonna cry' look cute....OK, I admit it was hot.

    I wonder if he likes to play virgin boy in jail?

    1. Your gay rape fantasies make you look weird.

      1. Ken, if you want to pretend you're a woman, and can do the tears, I'd let epi fuck you too

        1. Holy shit. your name is kendall. Lol, you are a girl!

        2. Are you saying you're a woman?

          ...and you're a woman who gets her jollies fantasizing about men raping each other in prison?

          I can't be the only one who doesn't get it.

          1. Totally healthy libertarian man-love fantasies involve consent, and Gary Johnson.

            1. I suppose that's true.

              I'm not knocking gay people or anything, but there are a lot of latent gay men out there who use any mention of jail on the interwebs to indulge their latent gay fantasies--and fantasize about watching men rape each other!

              But if rather's gay, then expressing himself on the internet isn't really gonna help him accept himself.

              I'm straight as an arrow myself. And gay rape fantasies aren't something I personally want to read about--but there are places where he could go to indulge that kind of thing somewhere, I'm sure.

              1. Ken, lol. I understand now. You want me to pretend I'm a boy. OK, bend over bitch 😉

              2. Ken the only thing you need to know about reading a rather comment is know what "male societies have no art" means.

                If you can decipher that code then you are over 90% of the way into understanding what Rather is the fuck talking about.

                Let me know if you ever crack it....i have given up.

                1. Well, the one thing I do know is that when people fantasize about gay rape in public?

                  It looks like a plea for acceptance.

                  It might be a subconscious thing--maybe he's unaware of it? I don't know. I know that gay thoughts aren't something I've never had to struggle with--because I've never had them.

                  I don't know if rather's gay--and if he is? Doesn't bother me. What do I care? But just as an intellectual exercise, can anybody think of another reason why someone would fantasize about gay rape in a public forum?

                  Other than it being a latent plea for public acceptance? If he doesn't want to call himself "gay"--or even if he isn't gay! Whateva. But for future reference, maybe somebody should tell him that we'll accept him if he comes out--but most people really don't want to hear about your gay rape fantasies.

                  It's like doin' somebody a favor by tellin' 'em their fly is open.

                  1. You are the perfect blog:

                    It might be a subconscious thing--maybe he's unaware of it? I don't know. I know that gay thoughts aren't something I've never had to struggle with--because I've never had them.

                2. Joshua, I am so disappointed that you didn't read my blog story on that thread.


                  If you lied about reading my blog, did you also tell a tale of your inventing a new way for women to orgasm?
                  Damn, I'm so naive. 🙁

          2. Men raping each other is yours-NTTIAWWT

            I would treat him gently. FFS, the man was already crying 😉

    2. Wow, you really just bring nothing to the table, do you rather?

      One mention of jail and you go for the most obvious, lame joke in the world. And not even a marginally interesting variation on the theme, just the same old shit.

      You should try this hum-dinger: White men cannot jump or dance. This is funny.

      1. Hmm, thanks for the blog idea

    3. He was scared a little bit... like I'm a good kid, what the hell are you doing kind of scared.

      That black woman saying "you aren't going to film me" is an imbecile.

  9. "What makes my stomach turn are terms like, ""illegal "remaining""" being used with a reporter attending a civic *public* hearing."

    Besides which, what does being a reporter have to do with anything?
    I pay those cretins' salaries; I'm their boss; as nothing more than being a citizen *and* their boss, I demand they be monitored by any means I chose.

  10. Jesus, what's the world coming to. "You don't have the right to record me", say what Toots?

    1. say what Toots?

      Stick it up mister, hear what i say, put your hands in the air now, and there will be no hurt mister, no no no.

  11. The DC city government is as corrupt as is the Federal Government which is located in the same area. DC takes lessons from congressional members and then reenacts them in the city.

  12. I notice the statement doesn't say when the commission instituted the policy of not allowing cameras. I bet they can't come up with a date on any record.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.