Letters to the Editor

Binghampton, videotaping the police, public prayer, Native American team names.

| November 14, 2013

Thanks to the Flyer for publishing Bianca Phillips' wonderful story on Binghampton ("The Hamp," November 7th issue). It's remarkable what kinds of great things can happen when people invest their hearts and energy into making a difference for good. This story made me proud to be a Memphian.


Claire Jefferson

A Right to Record
I am concerned to read reports that people are being arrested for shooting video on public streets when the Memphis Police Department is involved. As an assistant professor at Rhodes College who teaches film and photography, as someone who loves and makes documentary films, and as an American who believes we should guard our First Amendment rights carefully, I want to reiterate why this is an important issue to everyone.

I do not pretend to know all of the details of the specific incidents occurring on South Main or at Manna House. But reports were that in both incidents citizens felt the police were doing or were about to do something unlawful or unjust, and they began filming with their cell phones. In both cases, those filming were told to stop shooting video; they did not, and they were arrested and taken to jail. There are reports that at the scene police said that a permit was required to film. The official charges were "obstructing justice" or "obstructing a passageway."

First, it should be noted that it is completely legal to film on a public street or public property at any time. When video equipment is small and mobile, no permit is required. Filming must not obstruct the duties of law officials, and this is the gray area. In a public space, such as Main Street, it is difficult to believe that someone with a cell phone would be literally and physically impeding the work of the police officer. The problem is that one could be considered to be hindering the operations of law enforcement by disobeying direct commands, such as "stop filming" or "leave," but unless one is breaking a law or ordinance, the police have no right to ask you to stop filming or to leave.

I have filmed in seven different countries, including Tiananmen Square in China, without being arrested. It is disheartening and embarrassing to learn that people are being arrested for filming on Main Street in Memphis. I call on the MPD to apologize to those who were arrested.

Liz Daggett

It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court will rule on the latest challenge to prayer at government meetings. Naturally, Christians are clamoring to cram their bigoted beliefs down the throats of everyone within earshot, as they always do.

Since religion should be a personal matter, the logical and sensible solution would be to simply have a moment of silence, during which people could pray to the imaginary friend of their choice. But since half of our Supreme Court is made of right-wing wackos, expecting a sensible and logical decision is a bit of a stretch. I will pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that sanity may prevail.

Jim Brasfield

Redskins and Braves and Indians
Recently, there has been criticism of the idea of changing the name of the Washington Redskins. It was thought to be a matter that was not really important.

The treatment of Native Americans is a part of our history that we can only be ashamed of. We should not continue to dishonor Native Americans by using names for our sports teams that are insulting to them.

The Washington Redskins name and logo are patently offensive to Native Americans, despite what the team's defenders might say. The smiling red-faced Indian logo of the Cleveland Indians has always been a disrespectful symbol. The Atlanta Braves recently tried to bring back the reprehensible "savage Indian" logo.

I applaud the schools — including Stanford, St. John's, Marquette, and Arkansas State — that chose to do the right thing and changed their names and mascots, because they were offensive to Native Americans.

The Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians, and Atlanta Braves should follow suit.

Philip Williams


Comments (5)

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The police have a very good reason to want to stop people filming them while they do their jobs. Just imagine if you had someone sitting behind you at work, filming your every move. It would be nearly impossible to Twitter, Facebook, check your email, play Candy Crush, or make pithy comments on the Flyer website.

Now just imagine if part of your job included pepperspraying and tazering people in handcuffs? Imagine how difficult it must be to meet those arrest quotas if there's a citizen journalist standing there filming your every move. How are you supposed to make those charges stick in court if there's video evidence that directly contradicts your every assertion?

Our criminal justice system is built upon the assumed infallability of police testimony. If you damage that with videos that show the cops to be shameless liars, you undermine our system of justice, and by extension, America itself.

Remember the Rodney King riots? If not for those video tapes, there wouldn't have been any riots. Is this what we want to happen again?

The police should be free to do their jobs without videographers undermining everything they're trying to accomplish by recording what they're actually doing.

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Posted by Jeff on 11/14/2013 at 7:49 AM

Getting arrested for filming the popo? I see a Fly on the Wall story.

Posted by staythirstymyfriends on 11/15/2013 at 12:14 PM

Mr. Brasfield,

Quote: "...religion should be a personal matter.."

Who decided that? If I believe in a series of ethics, which all religions comprise, then I will express them during the week 24/7, irrespective of any deity or non-deity in my religion. Yes, there are some religions without deities, i.e. Buddhism, Secular Humanism (read the Humanist Manifestos I and II). If I was a law-maker and a bill passed by desk that required my signature as to whether a law should be allowed to allow stealing other's property to be legal (although it is stolen in the property tax scenario), I would not keep my religion 'private' as you wish. If I also believe that murder is wrong since the nature of my God, Jesus Christ, is morally against unjustified murder, then I will not keep that belief private. I will refrain from unjustified murder during the week and in public. I'm not talking about justice or self-defense.

For you to pray to a 'Flying Spaghetti Monster, then have at it and be irrationally insane. Christ appeared physically with eye-witnesses and changes lives; did the Spaghetti dude appear historically and are books written about him/her/it? There are many sources from Roman writers that testify to the physical appearance of Jesus, Josephus, Tacitus, Thallus, Phlegon, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Emperor Trajan, Emperor Hadrian, the Talmud, Lucian, Mara bar Serapion, etc. Are there any Spaghetti Monster Churches? If so, I'd like to visit one just out of curiousity.

What a waste of print.

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Posted by CHG on 11/16/2013 at 10:32 AM

This has been going on nationwide, and I hope the media keeps printing it.
Cell phones have become the scourge of every police department. The fact that they arrest and confiscate tells us all we need to know about the priority of truth.

Please keep those cameras rolling, but NEVER let the police know because they WILL confiscate it, and hopefully someone is taking a picture of that.

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Posted by poots on 11/16/2013 at 9:17 PM

As long as it does not hinder an investigation, video recording the actions of the police while during their public duty should not be a crime. But, you must understand the economics behind them not wanting to be filmed.

Let us say that the crime rate plummeted in Memphis by 50% overnight and stayed at that new rate. What would happen to the budgets for the police department, judges, jailers, prosecutors, etc? You need as many and the citizenry would be screaming for reductions in those budgets. Botom line, a lot of people would lose their jobs. So, there is a built in incentive for policemen to arrest, prosecutors to prosecute, judges for trails, jailers for people locked up, etc. That is a very strong motive for arresting people, even if not justified or warrented.

In the above scenario, it is important to know who to arrest, especially on bogus charges. You pick poor people who you think don't have the resources to put up a vigorous defense. Out of those, you pick young black males, for the perception is that all of them are thugs and criminals anyway. But, the use of cell phone cameras is threatening all of that. Especially the more expensive phones that have 5 MP or higher. The quality of the video gets better the more mega pixels you camera have.

It is a color thing, however that is an aside; The real impetus to not want people videoing plicemen is pure economics.

I rest my case.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 11/17/2013 at 12:53 PM
Showing 1-5 of 5

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