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Around 10 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday night, a St. Louis County police line demanded that a crowd of protesters turn off their cameras. Minutes earlier, the police had ordered what appeared to be a peaceful crowd to disperse, firing smoke grenades and rubber bullets. But none of them have to turn their cameras off.
protecting citizens from arbitrary searches and seizures, means that police need to “get a warrant” if they want to take your cellphone. (The ACLU has a concise guide to your rights, here.) And the U.S. Department of Justice under President Obama has affirmed the court’s stances by reminding police departments that they’re not allowed to harass citizens for recording them.
Earlier in the evening, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were arrested in a McDonald’s and later released with no explanation. Washington Post executive editor Martin D. Baron said Lowery was “illegally instructed to stop taking video of officers” and “slammed against a soda machine and then handcuffed.”
It’s obviously bad when reporters are being arrested for no reason, but it’s important to remember that all citizens — anybody who’s old enough to operate a smartphone — has a right to record the official activities of police in public.