At a rally against police brutality on Saturday in Alabama, a police officer tried to grab a man’s phone to prevent him from recording the officer’s actions.
Tyler Henderson was among a throng of people holding signs in downtown Mobile, one of the many outcries against police brutality spurred by the recent incidents in Ferguson, Missouri.
Henderson began recording as a police officer gave the crowd orders on where they could stand. When the officer spotted Henderson recording his orders, he immediately grabbed for the phone, as if he had a right to it.
When Henderson asserted his right to record, the officer tried to use enforcement of a Mobile city ordinance that purportedly allows officers to disperse crowds as justification for assaulting Henderson.
“Now I’ve already explained to you what you need to do, just do it.”
“Move it along,” one of the protestors added in.
“And everything will be fine. Otherwise you’re violating our city ordinance.”
Mobile does have a statute on the books that makes it against the law for someone to refuse to move on after a request by police to do so.
Sec. 49-2. Refusal to move on after request by police officer to do so.
It shall be unlawful for any person to stand or loiter upon any street after having been requested by any police officer to move on.(Code 1965, § 14-8)
However, even if Mobile’s city ordinance is constitutional – despite its use to restrict First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful assembly – the officer has no right to grab Henderson’s camera, and committed an unlawful assault.
In the days after Ferguson, this type of behavior seems routine for police, but is, in fact, a criminal act constituting assault that would land a person in jail if he were not wearing a badge. Law enforcement officers are not above the law and prosecutors should be treating all assaults equally, whether or not the offender is wearing a badge.
Call the Mobile Police Department at 251.208.1700.