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PM Beers Films the Police

Fullerton cops target a citizen journalist who recorded a January protest at a memorial for Kelly Thomas

Asked for comment over the telephone, Fullerton police Sergeant Jeff Stuart demanded questions be sent via email given the Weekly's "incredible slant."

According to Cal State Fullerton criminology professor Jarret Lovell, Beers' case is an interesting study in whether citizen journalists can claim in court the same rights as mainstream journalists while covering protests.

"The question about whether citizen journalists have the same protections as professional journalists is an issue that's eventually going to have to be heard in the highest court," Lovell says. "Is reporting a form of speech or a form of action? If we consider reporting a form of speech, then participating in an action that you're reporting [on] would be protected."

Beers being taken into custody
OC Weekly
Beers being taken into custody

In addition to being arrested in the past for unlawful assembly himself, Lovell authored a chapter on citizen journalism and police in Law Enforcement Ethics: Classic and Contemporary Issues. In it, he cites a First Circuit Court ruling in the case of Simon Glick, a lawyer who filmed a police encounter only to be arrested for wiretapping. The ruling held the rights of the press are "continuous with the rights of individuals, and police attempts to create a distinction between the two are invalid."

Whether authorities or prosecutors consider Beers a protester or press, she'll continue on, regardless of the consequences. "Live-stream documentation is the worst nightmare for police because they can't destroy that evidence," Beers says. Law enforcement, in this case, can attempt to use archived footage against activists and citizen journalists alike, but not without a challenge.

"I know that I'm not guilty," she concludes. "Whatever happens, I'm not backing down."

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