Police Violated Free Speech and Free Press Rights During Unlawful Search and Detention of Live Streamer

February 11, 2015 - Carrie Medina firmly believes that police should always act as they would if they knew there was a camera on them. She made it a point to film police encounters she witnessed.

In February 2013, while riding the bus home from work, she heard someone exclaim, “Ooh, that must’ve hurt!” and looked outside to see two police officers arresting a young man. She got off the bus to observe the police activity and started a livestream video with her phone. Watch the video.

Medina was no stranger to livestreaming. She got her start during the Occupy Portland protests and had soon gathered a group of dedicated viewers. With donations from her supporters to help cover expenses, she had also traveled to protests in D.C. and Chicago to livestream video.

“Livestreamers” have played an important role in recent protests both by attracting large audiences in real time and also by capturing moments that can go “viral” afterwards. For example, over 750,000 viewers tuned in live to see the violent eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protestors. And recently in Ferguson, Missouri, livestreaming journalists shared video of the militarized police response toward protestors that shocked the nation.

By the time Carrie Medina was off the bus and in place to video, the young man being arrested was already in handcuffs. She stood several yards away broadcasting and narrating the events. She started to feel that the police were paying her a lot of attention and she backed even further away. That’s when Officer Letsis walked up to her and asked to see her video.

Medina explained that the she did not want to show her phone. She further explained that the video was streaming live and would be available on the internet for review. The police officer told her again that she must show him her recording and then snatched the phone away and twisted her arm. She was detained while the officer searched her phone, but luckily the video was also uploaded and saved on the livestream site.

Medina was scared and appalled by the officer’s actions that day, but the incident only fueled her belief in the importance of filming police. She shared her story with other media outlets and filed a formal complaint against the officer. Medina also cofounded a group dedicated to standing up for the right to video police called Film the Police Portland.

On Tuesday, we  filed a lawsuit arguing the police violated Medina’s free speech and free press rights when they stopped her recording and broadcasting of the police activity. Additionally, we maintain that her rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated when the officer seized and then searched her phone without her consent or a search warrant, and that the officer also unlawfully detained her that day.

Representing Medina in cooperation with the ACLU Foundation of Oregon are Charles Paternoster of Parsons, Farnell & Grein LLP and Gregory Chaimov, Alan Galloway, and Tim Cunningham of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. 

Photo of Carrie Medina by Lindsay Beaumont.

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