BREAKING VIDEOS: Austin Police Affidavit Proven False by Peaceful Streets Project Videos; Video Proves Illegal and Unconstitutional Arrests
In what many believe was a continued assault on the First Amendment rights of police accountability activists by the Austin Police Department, Antonio Buehler, founder of the Peaceful Streets Project, and Mike Bluehair Smith of Film the Police Portland were both arrested early Sunday morning, August 2nd, while filming police officers in downtown Austin during an organized “cop watch.” Fortunately for Buehler and Smith, the videos that members of the Peaceful Streets Project were taking proves that their arrests were illegal, unconstitutional, and that the Austin Police Department issued a fraudulent probable cause affidavit.
Austin Police Officer Aljoe Garibay #6155 was the author of the affidavit for the arrest of Buehler. The affidavit included a series of misleading and false statements. The misleading and false statements are listed below in bullet format, with an explanation of why the statement is misleading and/or false in the subsequent bullet:
- “Not only did responding officers have to move around crowds to get to the disturbance they also had to move around members of the Peaceful Streets running towards the scene attempting to get there before we could, this delayed our response time to help and assist breaking up the disturbance by adding to pedestrian traffic, blocking my path, at one point I had to move Buehler out of the way.” (Paragraph 3)
- First, the Peaceful Streets Project members are a part of the crowd, and should not be treated as a separate class of people who are expected to always be mindful of who may be behind them. To argue that only those with cameras have the responsibility of knowing if a police officer is behind them and wants to move in a straight line to an unknown point that would lead the police officer through that person with a camera else they be arrested for interference places a considerable burden on cop watchers. A burden that is a violation of their First Amendment rights.
- Second, the video of the incident shows that Garibay was in a hurry to get nowhere. Garibay went past the disturbance to push past Buehler, and then stopped and stood around doing nothing.
- Third, Garibay refers to the scene as a “disturbance” implying that a crime was in progress involving a crowd. The scene was merely a young woman vomiting. The police work performed was in the nature of a welfare check to make sure the young woman was OK and nothing further happened.
- “It was then that Antonio approached our perimeter and made contact with SGT. Randy Dear. Antonio was holding a video recording device in his hand and was holding it approximately 6 inches from SGT. Dears’ face nearly touching him.”
- First, the affidavit makes it appear that the police presence at this time was related to an ongoing crime scene incident or disturbance. In fact, there was no incident at this point at all. The incident with the sick young woman had been resolved, all parties including the police had dispersed, and all Peaceful Streets Project cameras turned off. There was no disturbance whatsoever.
- Second, Buehler did not approach their perimeter. The police officers formed a huddle where they were all listening to SGT Dear, ostensibly preparing to orchestrate an illegal arrest of Buehler. Buehler was approached by SGT Dear, not the other way around. The video does not reveal any reason for the huddle.
- Third, the video clearly shows that SGT Dear moved from the huddle approximately 10-15 feet away to within inches of Buehler’s camera. At no point while Dear was approaching Buehler did Buehler advance his body or his arm holding the camera.
- “SGT Dear. Advised Antonio that he was on patrol and asked him to get back as he was in blocking his view, preventing him being able to have a clear line of sight of the large 6th street crowd. Antonio moved his recording device approximately 2 inches and began arguing with SGT. Dear.”
- First, the claim is an outright lie. SGT Dear said, “Hey, I’m going to let y’all know, the next time we go to a disturbance and you all get in the way … yes you were … the next time you’re interfering you’re going to be arrested. Alright, thank you. You’ve been warned Sir.” And then he walked away.
- Second, as previously proven through video, Buehler did not advance toward SGT Dear at all. Buehler’s “arguing” consisted of Buehler asking for clarification on how they could be interfering for standing somewhere.
- “A few minutes went by and I then asked Antonio to step back at least an arm’s length as he was now focused on recording CPL. Sebek. Antonio had his recording device approximately 6 inches away from CPL. Sebek face.”
- First, no more than thirty seconds went by from the time Dear walked away to the time Garibay told Buehler to stay an arm’s length away.
- Second, Buehler was at an arm’s length away from Sebek, and further for Garibay, the entire time. The video shows Sebek reaching his arm out ordering Buehler to be an arm’s length away without touching Buehler. Buehler never advances toward either of them.
- Third, Sebek was filming Buehler as Buehler was filming Sebek. They both had comparable filming positions, although Sebek initially placed his camera closer to Buehler’s face than Buehler did to Sebek’s face. At no point did Buehler stick the camera within six inches of Sebek’s face. The only time Buehler adjusted his filming position was when Sebek placed his camera directly in front of Buehler’s camera.
- “A few minutes went by again, and Antonio kept arguing with us getting closer and closer every time attempting to distract and engage in conversation. I … pointed exactly to him where he needed to be for a safe distance. Antonio kept getting closer and loser, rallying up his crew as he was being loud trying to get attention from the 6th street crowds and his crew quickly becoming a hostile situation.”
- First, only seconds elapsed.
- Second, the video shows that Buehler never advanced toward Garibay.
- Third, the video shows that Antonio did not say anything to anyone who he knew or motion to anyone who he knew in any way to get them to “rally” or to bring “attention from the 6th street crowds.”
- Fourth, the hostility came from Dear and Garibay issuing illegal orders to Buehler.
- “Antonio again refused to maintain a safe distance, again standing very close to officers placing camera phone into the faces of officers trying to watch the large 6th street crowd.”
- First, Buehler never advanced toward the police officers. The only reason Buehler was ever “very close to officers” was because the officers advanced toward Buehler.
- Second, Buehler never stuck a camera phone in the face of any officers trying to watch the crowd. The officers place their faces in Buehler’s largely stationary camera throughout the entire episode. The only time Buehler actively moves his camera is to be able to film Sebek who uses his camera to block Buehler’s. Sebek obviously was not watching the crowd; he was filming Buehler.
- “SGT. Dear approached Antonio and notified him to turn around he was under arrest for interference with public duties.”
- After SGT Dear approached Buehler and moved to within inches of him, Dear told Buehler that he had to move back because they were about to go on patrol. While protesting an illegal order, Buehler did step away from Dear and moved out of the space that he suggested he needed. Buehler was arrested, anyway. Buehler then turned around and tried to hand off his cameras to other Peaceful Streets Project members.
- “… he kept resisting by attempting to put his right arm under him.”
When compared to the multiple videos that the Peaceful Streets Project took of the arrest, it is clear that the affidavit written by Officer A. Garibay #6155 is one long string of misleading and fraudulent statements. At no point did Buehler advance toward the officers, at no point did the officers give Buehler any legal orders that would have required him to step back, and at no time did they have probable cause to arrest him. Further, Mike Bluehair Smith was illegally arrested for “interference with public duties” for simply trying to catch Buehler’s cameras as he tried to hand them off to Peaceful Streets Project members to prevent the police from confiscating them and suppressing the video evidence of the arrest.
Buehler said, “This arrest highlights how the Austin Police deliberately uses false arrests to trample on the Constitutional rights of those trying to hold the police accountable. By every measure, they were the only people who committed crimes on Sunday morning. They know that by the law, it is impossible to interfere with public duties simply by standing in a public space and filming cops standing around doing nothing. They also know that the Constitution trumps their belief that they can bark arbitrary orders at people with cameras to prevent them from filming their activities.”
In a follow up to statements made to the media on Sunday, Millie Thompson, Buehler’s defense attorney said, “I told you all that it was an illegal arrest. I told you so.”
Buehler originally made news on January 1, 2012, when he was arrested on the charge of Harassment of a Public Official, a 3rd degree felony, for allegedly spitting in Austin (TX) Police Officer Patrick Oborski’s face. Buehler was ultimately cleared of all charges from that arrest due to multiple witnesses stepping forward to testify that Oborski lied about Buehler spitting in his face, as well as multiple videos and audio files that proved that Oborski lied. In the fall of 2012, the Austin Police Department trained their officers how to illegally go about arresting Buehler and other members of the Peaceful Streets Project for filming them using the “interference with public duties” statute. Over the past three and a half years, Buehler has been arrested five times, has had ten charges levied in the courts against him, and has had dozens of criminal investigations launched against him (including at least three felony investigations by the Austin Police Department). Buehler has beaten every charge. No police officers have been disciplined or arrested for their illegal arrests.
The Peaceful Streets Project and Film The Police Portland are independent grassroots organizations that attempt to promote police accountability through cop watching (filming the police in public), in addition to other forms of direct action such as Know Your Rights trainings, protests against police brutality, and police accountability summits.
Antonio Buehler’s video: https://youtu.be/7ktkUingcOs
Steve D’s video: https://youtu.be/qIFItJeCM5c
Julian Reyes’ video: http://youtu.be/kvE8qGIUPm0
Richard B’s video: http://youtu.be/e4mziCp43VI
Lynn F’s video: http://youtu.be/ES04LtfEMCQ
Here are the first four videos synced highlighting how everything APD claims is a lie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiwtuBP7SXw
Antonio Buehler’s video of “disturbance” before the arrest: http://youtu.be/tCGPt0VvZg4