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Congressman Condemned For Violating First Amendment Rights Of Constituents

by David Badash on August 25, 2011

in News,Politics

Post image for Congressman Condemned For Violating First Amendment Rights Of Constituents

The actions of U.S. Congressman Steve Chabot’s (R-OH) office have been publicly condemned by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) after congressional staffers directed the confiscation of video cameras by local police at the Congressman’s Monday town hall event, held in a public school. The NPPA has issued two “strong letters of objection,” (below) one to Congressman Chabot, and one to the Cincinnati Police Chief.

READ: GOP Congressman Has Police Confiscate Cameras From Democrats At Town Hall

In “NPPA Voices Strong Objections to Congressional Incident in Cincinnati,” Mickey Osterreicher, General Counsel for the NPPA writes today,

In seeking “a complete and immediate apology” by the congressman for this “blatant constitutional transgression” the NPPA letter also wrote that “posting signs banning cameras ‘for security purposes’ does not supersede the constitutional rights of citizens.”

Reaction to the incident has been extremely negative and widespread with hundreds of comments posted on YouTube, Congressman Chabot’s Facebook wall and sent to his congresssional website page. This appears to be exactly the embarrassing outcome that aides had intented to avoid. Schwartz also is reported to have said that the cameras confiscated ”from David Little and Liz Ping, who were given the cameras back at the end of the meeting.”

Additionally, Osterreicher writes,

The NPPA letter to Cincinnati Police Chief James E. Craig stated that “whether the officer acted at the request of the congressman or his staff or of his own volition exhibits a total lack of understanding and/or disregard for the constitutional protections afforded those he is sworn to serve and protect. Law enforcement agencies are established to uphold and enforce laws in a professional manner, part of which is to exercise good judgment. I believe that your officer abused that discretion by his actions.” The letter also went on to state that “if your department’s vision is to be ‘recognized as the standard of excellence in policing’ by ‘the delivery of fair and impartial police services while maintaining an atmosphere of respect for human dignity;’ then we would respectfully request that you maintain your ‘integrity,’ ‘professionalism,’ and ‘accountability’ by upholding your ‘obligations to the department and community’ and reinstate ‘public trust’ by a full and impartial investigation of this incident.” The letter concluded by a “request that your department immediately issue orders directing officers to cease such activity and also that your department implement revised training for all officers regarding these matters.”

And The New Civil Rights Movement reported this morning,

Ironically, and what should be of great concern to all Americans is that Chabot sits on the Committee on the Judiciary, the Subcommittee on the Constitution, and on the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet.

The leader of the ultra-​right wing Tea Party group, Tea Party Nation’s Judson Phillips called Chabot “America’s dumbest Republican Congressman” for this stunt.

Here’s a screenshot of some of the most-recent public comments on Chabot’s Facebook page:

And following are the two letters from the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA):

Chabot Letter 08-25-11

Cincinnati Police Letter 08-25-11

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