Police

Fresno Bans Journalists—and Everyone Else—From Filming Cops Clearing Out Homeless Camps

The ACLU of Northern California is suing to overturn the ordinance.

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The city of Fresno, California, has been trying to prevent citizens from documenting sweeps of homeless encampments in town. The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU NorCal) is suing to try to stop this violation of First Amendment rights.

The ACLU NorCal complaint takes aim at an amendment to a city ordinance approved on February 28 that allows city officials to construct barriers surrounding homeless encampments when the city comes in and removes the camps. Under this amended ordinance, no person is allowed to cross the barrier without authorization from the city official or the contractor on site. Crossing the barrier without permission can result in a misdemeanor charge or a $250 citation. The ordinance also includes a clause that shields city officials or contractors from personal liability for any damage they do during an abatement.

The lawsuit notes that these encampment sweeps often involve destroying homeless people's items and can sometimes involve excessive force. City officials sometimes take or destroy tents, clothing, food, identification documents, pets, and other personal belongings during such sweeps, according to the complaint.

Advocates, journalists, and regular citizens simply wishing to document the city's actions sometimes come to the sweeps. The ACLU NorCal complaint says this ordinance punishes people engaging in "advocacy, speech, expressive conduct, and association" during encampment sweeps and protects the government from liability for wrongdoing.  

Dez Martinez, one of the plaintiffs in the case and founder of homeless advocacy organization We Are Not Invisible, often goes to encampment sweeps and covers them, uploading the recordings online, while also providing assistance to the homeless people involved. In one sweep Martinez went to, city workers began placing homeless people's belongings in unmarked black bags, promising to either deliver the belongings or store the items for safekeeping. Martinez pleaded for the workers to label the bags, but they did not do so. The belongings were only labeled after Martinez obtained a pen from one of the workers and labeled them herself, according to the complaint. 

The lawsuit argues that public observers like Martinez can compel city officials to act with greater care. One homeless person quoted in the complaint said, "These people would walk all over us without Dez. When she is there, she gets out her camera and they behave." In addition to that, "people have the right under the First Amendment to film officers conducting official business in public," Chessie Thacher, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU NorCal, tells Reason. 

Public scrutiny and fear of liability is essential for government accountability, and this new ordinance provides Fresno's government with a tool to hide their misconduct and avoid liability of wrongdoing, says Thacher.

The plaintiffs ask the court to find the ordinance in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment and declare it void and unenforceable; to prohibit the city of Fresno from enforcing the ordinance; and to prohibit the city from issuing any administrative citations or prosecuting any criminal sanctions under the ordinance. 

The Fresno City Attorney's Office did not respond to Reason's request for comment.

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  1. The lawsuit notes that these encampment sweeps often involve destroying homeless people's items and can sometimes involve excessive force.

    It's standard procedure to destroy everything and anyone who complains about it get a beating. C'mon. What the hell else do you think they're going to do?

    So of course they don't want to be filmed.

    The belongings were only labeled after Martinez obtained a pen from one of the workers and labeled them herself, according to the complaint.

    As soon as she turned her back all the bags went into a dumpster.

    The plaintiffs ask the court to find the ordinance in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment and declare it void and unenforceable; to prohibit the city of Fresno from enforcing the ordinance; and to prohibit the city from issuing any administrative citations or prosecuting any criminal sanctions under the ordinance.

    Mumble mumble compelling government interest mumble mumble.

    1. Home income solution to enable everyone to work online and receive weekly payments to bank acc. Earn over $500 every day and get payouts every week straight to account bank. (ui22) My last month of income was $30,390 and all I do is work up to 4 hours a day on my computer. Easy work and steady income are great with this job.
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      More information. >> https://brilliantfuture01.blogspot.com/

      1. If digital recoding technology was available 235 years ago, the right to record what we witness would have been an inalienable right. It should be today.

        Recording reality, truth is our single best defence against the coercion of lies.

        It is just as, if not more, important than the right to bear arms

    2. You've told us why you're emotionally connected to this story already. Simmer down.

  2. "people have the right under the First Amendment to film officers conducting official business in public,"

    So?
    People also have the right to keep and bear arms, but they have to pay for a permit to do so, and in places simply cannot do so.
    People have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, but cops take stuff all the time and you have to sue to get it back. That is hard to afford when the cops have all your money.
    People also have the right to free speech, but if your speech is not favored, mobs show up and shout you down while the cops stand there under orders not to protect your rights.
    People have the right to make their own medical decisions, but they still lose their jobs if they do.

    Remember, remember, the eighth of November.

  3. The left: "Food insecurity is rampant and people are starving"

    Homeless people: *sitting there with BMI of >40 in the morbid obese category*

  4. Homeless people have more stuff than I do.

  5. No excuse to live on the street and shit in the gutter.
    What did you do to piss off all your family and friends?
    Go to the damn shelter or get a job.

  6. Hey, Verdon - journalists *are* 'everyone else'.

    They don't get special privileges and please stop thinking of them as a separate class.

    1. This is a very good point.

      If I have a camera, and I want to take a picture of an event to publish literally anywhere, I am a journalist. Considering most people have a pretty good camera on their cell phone... yeah, everyone's a journalist.

      Someone from traditional media is not special.

      1. Not quite. The point isn’t that anyone who has a camera is a journalist. It’s that there’s no such thing as journalists, from a rights perspective. Everyone has the same rights, whether or not they have a camera.

        1. These are separate.

          Everyone has the same rights. This is fact, you are completely correct.

          But I say everyone is a journalist if they want to be. The government doesn't get to say who is allowed, nor do media companies.

          Where I'm coming from is: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;..."

          I'm saying we're all press, from a 1A standpoint, if we want to be.

        2. "M'Lady."

          *Tips fedora pinned with Universal Life Church "Press" Credential.*

    2. The mantra of activists masquerading as journalists: "I can dish it out but I can't take it."

    3. Is "Hey, Verdon!" like Jim Varney's/Earnest P. Worrell's "Hey, Vern!"?
      https://youtu.be/vOHMHHcvdPs

  7. WTF is Fresno thinking? They should be livestreaming that shit on Twitch, Rumble, Youtube, Facebook and every platform available.

    "Look what we're finally doing to fix the problem!"

    1. I'm with you here! There are 24/7/365 streaming channels devoted exclusivlely to fireplace fires in Banff, Germany and Yellowstone's geysers and even car crashes on dash cams!

      Why not the 24/7/365 Urban Rehab Channel! With sponsorship by Nix Lice Remover and the latest Bell & Howell Ultrasonic Pest Repeller!

  8. I watch the WWII documentaries when browsing the TV. I think the flamethrower tactics used during the sweep of Okinawa would be effective both in removing the tents and other unsightly items and also disinfecting at the same time. I can see why the authorities might want a no-go zone with a perimeter. Get everybody out by inviting the inhabitants to a meal with free booze outside the zone and then BBQ the place.

    1. Nah! The Cavalier Vodka and butane canisters in the encampment might set adjacent property on fire. Bulldozing is safer and at least buries the bio-waste.

  9. You should be free to take pictures of whoever you want.

    1. Sean Penn would disagree.

      1. Sean Penn and Andy Ngo's attackers are why professional journalists should pack heat, even if it means going Gonzo with the story.

  10. If you want not to sleep on streets you have to get money so you need to work, don't be lazy af so you want everything comes to you easily.

  11. Julian, how many homeless junkies are you housing at any point in time? Nice of you to throw them in the street and forbid anyone else from dealing with the mess you leftists created.

    There isn't a restriction on filming here, but a restriction on getting in the cops face while they're cleaning up the public spaces being illegally occupied by the homeless.

    1. These illegal encampments are biohazard sites full of feces, urine, and drug paraphernalia. Cops and cleaning crews are being responsible by blocking them off. Julian's SJW naivete would be cute if it weren't so pathetic.

  12. Keeping ID in "Lost and Found" is a best practice to stop Identity Theft, but other than that, barring brutality, the police are doing notbing wrong, so let the activists film!

    I would put this on video too...and I would entitle the video: "Police Burn Donut Calories and Do The Right Thing."...And if homeless build more encampment's elsewhere, I would video them too...And I would defend anyone's First Amendment Right to do the same.

  13. Just do what other pigs do and move the perimeter for the media so far away they can't see anything

  14. A whistleblower who’s fled the United States for Switzerland has vowed to drop ‘450 gigabytes of deleted material‘ from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop, which he says he also gave the the Washington Post, New York Times, and Sen. Chuck Grassley – all of whom he says sat on it for months.

  15. This week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, doing their level best to keep Californians out of Texas and Florida, (a move which no doubt delighted conservatives in both states) voted to ban official travel to Florida and Texas.

    When will California be demanding KGB internal passports?

  16. The question of WHY looms large. Enough said. The “authorities” need to answer the question.

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