What: Videographer to face arrest over camera restrictions
Where: Keene District Court, 3 Washington Street, Keene, New Hampshire
When: 8:00 a.m. March 3, 2009
Why: Protest court's unjustified camera shutdown orders
How: Indie journalist will attempt to enter court. Will refuse to
stop recording without acceptable reason.
Who: Dave Ridley, Manchester videographer (RidleyReport.com, email@example.com, 603.721.1490)
Backup contacts: David Krouse (603.852.8443), Ian Freeman
Dear folks at Keene District Court:
On Novemer 14, 2008, acting without acceptable cause, you ordered documentarian Tom Caruso to shut off his camera during a trial. Caruso had tried to follow your rules, obtained the necessary permissions in advance and travelled hundreds of miles to be pool photographer. Though he was without fault or failing, you shut him down just minutes into the proceedings. Then you removed the victimless defendant whose plight Caruso was attempting to document. You condemned that defendant to an unspeakably excessive sentence, away from the public, away from Caruso's camera.
The perception exists that you are violating New Hampshire's way of life, bringing down a curtain of partial secrecy upon once-public proceedings. We have seen what happens when governing institutions lower such veils of darkness upon their actions. We have, decades ago, allowed such a veil to fall around Federal institutions here and have paid for that mistake. No such barrier is sufferable at KDC.
Fortunately, history has provided the people with a peaceable means of combating such abuses, without reliance on government. The Gandhis and Thoreaus of our world provide inspiration; it is for the rest of us to clumsily follow their ways and hope we may achieve some poor echo of their accomplishment.
On March 3, 2009, I intend to place myself at risk of arrest in your courthouse. First I will try to follow your permission-to-film procedures. I will inform you of my wish to record the arraignment of a Gandhi-emulating marijuana activist. Then, in the absence of illness or emergency, I intend to will appear at the event with video cameras, sound recorders and a readiness to suffer.
I'm ready to face arrest rather than be turned away, ready to go to jail rather than comply with the type of shutdown order you gave Caruso. Previous pool photographers have, understandably, allowed you to intimidate them into compliance The situation at your court requires a pool photographer with less to lose, and even more readiness to make sacrifices on behalf of press freedom. I intend to be that photographer, to videotape the entirity of the arraignment with the defendant's consent and to make the video available for others. I have an open mind toward your legitimate requests and intend to be among the minority who still stand at such proceedings. But unacceptable "stop filming" orders will be...unaccepted. You should assume I'm recording unless otherwise noted.
I also intend to be in the same room as the defendant. I'm ready to face arrest rather than allow him to be separated from me during the proceedings. As much as possible within this context, I will try not to disrupt your process. I'm urging all allies in this matter to do likewise and treat you with respect, even when their conscience compells them to disobey.
As I recall, you sometimes discourage videotaping the audience. I've tried to follow this admonition, but recently you threatened members of that audience with legal harm if they failed to stand for you. Thus, many of the people who will be spectating that day *want* to be recorded for their safety. Your warnings have made them newsworthy. So I'm compelled to videotape at least this part of the audience, and again I'm ready to face arrest rather than do otherwise. I'll submit a separate note outlining ways we can work together to protect the anonymity of uninvolved private citizens.
It's beyond my poor power to change your level of openness against your will. But raising the issue of press freedom in the courtroom...that can be done. And done it shall be.
Yours with best wishes,