Reality Check: Why seizing cameras at the Rep. Chabot town hall is a big deal

(FOX19) - Republican Congressman Steve Chabot says he has taken steps to allow cameras at his Town Hall meetings.

Up until Monday night, not only could you not videotape the Town Halls, people couldn't even ask questions. They had to submit those questions on paper in advance. But whole thing blew up just 8 days ago. Here's what happened.

At the Town Hall meeting last week, two people had their cameras taken away. Both of the videos are now posted on YouTube.

Here is a excerpt of the altercation between a Cincinnati police officer who was taking cameras away and the man who had been video-taping.

"Sir, are we going to do this the easy way or the hard way?

Sir, sir, I am well within my rights.

You are not a member of the press.

I am well within my rights.  We are in a public building.  No one has the right to say that we cannot use our phones or our equipment."

Where to begin? First, this event is at a public place. Cameras are perfectly legal. To be clear, there were signs posted on the doors letting people know that video taping would not be allowed.

But the problem isn't the cameras. The problem is the sign.

This isn't a private building, therefore, there should be no assumption of privacy. This is a public town hall meeting, and the event is being funded by taxpayers.  But because of the sign on the doors, Cincinnati Police took those cameras away.

Another except from an exchange between a police officer and a woman video taping the event:

"They don't want you using it in here."

"There is no reason, it is not against the law to film this."

"Yes it is.  That's what I've been told."

"Why?  Give me a reason."

"They don't want you filming in here.  To protect the identity of constituents."

"I have every right to film this."

"No you do not."

"I have every right to film my congressman."

"No you do not."

But she does. I believe the officer when he says he was told it was against the law. But simply because a Congressman decrees something doesn't make it law.

A spokesman for Congressman Chabot says it is an old policy to not allow video cameras that goes back to 2005.

But whatever the reason, the Congressman and his people had no right to prevent the videos from being recorded.

The freedom to videotape in a public place, is protected under the first amendment of the constitution, as freedom of the press. Just because you don't work for a news station doesn't mean you are not media. Anyone can upload video to a blog or YouTube.

The 4th Amendment was violated as well. The right to protection against unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause.

And if you think probable cause would be the sign on the door, think again. The Supreme Court has already ruled on cases of allowing cameras in public places where there should be no assumption of privacy.

Here's what you need to know:

Reality Check is glad to hear that the Congressman has changed his policy.  But the bigger issue of concern is why cameras were banned in the first place.  The officer told the woman who's camera he confiscated, it was being done for, "security reasons."

It seems like an awful lot of rights can be stepped on with those two words.

And that is Reality Check.

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