Media Kicked Out of Bio-Terrism Drill
ADDISON TX – The First Amendment was suspended today in Addison, Texas where the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services conducted a “mock bioterrorism disaster exercise” where government bureaucrats took issue with media recording the event and called the local police.
In late December, the local Dallas NBC station ran an article soliciting the public for volunteers to be part of the terrorism exercise to play the role of “patient.”
“The fire department does frequent training so that we can be prepared for any emergency,” said Addison fire chief John O’Neil. “By Partnering with these other agencies, we are able to participate in exercises we could not possibly manage alone.”
As an independent journalist, I took great interest in this event and believed that the public has a right to know how their own government is allocating resources and should be aware of how the drill was being conducted. Shortly after entering the Loos Fieldhouse with camera in hand, some volunteers immediately took issue with me recording them. One Dallas County volunteer who was sporting an official lanyard of some kind requested that I not film her, which I politely refused. Not only was she working in an official government capacity, she was in a public space with no expectation to privacy. That didn’t stop her from charging at me and my camera, attempting to knock the camera out of my hands. I’m not a lawyer, but I believe I was assaulted by this government volunteer for refusing to stop recording.
A representative of the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services, Emily Gore, then approached me and informed me that the actors, or “patients,” who were solicited from the public, in a public space, in a public building at a public event were not allowed to be filmed due to patient confidentiality. Even though this was considered a mock exercise, she apparently wanted to practice banning media as she would do in a real life scenario. I politely refused her request as I believed this to be textbook first amendment protected activity. One Dallas Police officer, Quentin Barge (#0215), operating outside of his jurisdiction echoed Gores request and told me I had to leave. I plead my case with him and eventually conveyed my disappointment that he was refusing to protect the freedom of the press.
Enter Addison Police Department. A department that I have a bit of history with. As luck would have it, Officer B. Jones, who is named on my Federal suit was one of the responding officers, along with his fellow YouTube star, Officer Schiek, made famous for smashing a mans window for refusing to show identification at a traffic stop. Despite having no first hand information of the situation, officer Schiek immediately sided with the government beauracrats (big surprise) and barked, “you gotta go man. You gotta go now or it’s criminal trespass.” When asked, “so you’re not going to protect my (First Amendment) rights today?” He responded, “you don’t have rights, it’s private property.”
A government entity rents a government building, invites members of the public to participate in a public event, then suddenly when the camera starts rolling it becomes private property at the whim of some government volunteers. I can’t think of a worse excuse to ban media from an event, but it doesn’t take much for the police to side with their own team. At least they were consistent in their enforcement techniques as one NBCDFW cameraman made his way all the way inside and into the staging area before getting kicked out.
Some members of DontComply.com were able to smuggle their cameras inside and captured video of staging area. Participants reported walking into the gym where authorities had tables setup where they filled out a form with their name and allergy information, then received a baggie with a piece of candy inside, representing antibiotics used to fight anthrax.
Watch all the crazy double-speak below