Please note that we have revised our press release to replace the word "arrest" with the words "detain her, apply for a criminal complaint and request a summons." We request that you update any stories that were based on the previous language.
The Somerville District Court has dismissed a criminal complaint against Ms. Wenzday Jane, initially applied for by police after Jane video-recorded police questioning three teenagers at a playground in Somerville's Prospect Hill neighborhood.
"Essentially, Ms. Jane was criminally charged because she chose to exercise her constitutionally protected right to record the police," said Jessie Rossman, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which represented Ms. Jane. "We need to encourage more citizens to do what Ms. Jane did. The officer's decision to detain her, apply for a criminal complaint and request a summons is indicative of a broader, troubling trend, in which police continue in a variety of ways to hinder people's right to record their work in public. This is especially troubling in light of the nationwide controversy over police accountability following events like the choking death by police of Eric Garner in New York, captured on video by a bystander."
Staff and supporters of the ACLU of Massachusetts trained demonstrators on their rights and attended last week's peaceful protest at Boston Common, a response to the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Garner. ACLU of Massachusetts attorneys also joined the National Lawyers Guild to assist the 10 people arrested during the protests. Locally and nationally, the ACLU continues to work for the rights of protestors responding to recent instances of police brutality and racial bias in policing.
In Ms. Jane's case, the Judge today dismissed the criminal complaint following argument by the ACLU of Massachusetts, agreeing that Ms. Jane had not committed the crime of interfering with the police. The ACLU of Massachusetts had also argued that the complaint should be dismissed because "interfering with police" is not a crime in Massachusetts and because criminalizing Ms. Jane's behavior would violate the First Amendment.
"More than three years ago, the federal First Circuit Court in Boston held in Glik v. Cunniffe that the Constitution protects the right to record the police in public," said Carl Williams, an ACLU of Massachusetts staff attorney who, with Rossman, represented Ms. Jane. "We need to prevent police from using other criminal charges as a backdoor to try getting around Glik to ensure that individuals are able to exercise this First Amendment right without fear of arrest."