IL ACLU Supports Champaign Man Charged with Eavesdropping for Videotaping Police Conduct in Public

Today the Illinois ACLU released a statement of support for Martel Miller, a local man charged with criminal eavesdropping for videotaping police traffic stops and documenting the disparity between how the police treat black folks in their neighborhoods as compared to how they treat similar conduct of mostly white University of Illinois students in Campustown.

I’ll have audio from the conference on tonight’s radioshow (5:30 PM, WEFT 90.1 FM), along with an interview with Nicole Lamers, who is a member of the group Martel works with, and who spoke at the press conference. That show will be archived here later tonight or tomorrow. I’ll also post the full press conference audio to the Urbana-Champaign IMC website soon.

Continue on to read the ACLU’s press release.

ACLU of Illinois

AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF ILLINOIS 180 N. MICHIGAN # 2300 CHICAGO, IL 60601-1287

TEL: (312) 201-9740 FAX: (312) 201-9760 www.aclu-il.org

PRESS CONTACT: Adam Schwartz 312/201-9740-2316
Statement of September 10, 2004,

Regarding the Prosecution of Marten Miller

The ACLU of Illinois, along with its more than 15,000 members from every corner of the state, supports the right of an individual or organization to videotape government activity in a public place, including police detentions of civilians.

The First Amendment protects the public’s right to seek redress for grievances from the government. This includes the right to collect information regarding the government’s actions. The First Amendment also protects the freedom of the press to report on government actions, and the public’s right to receive this news. These rights promote government accountability, one of our core national values.

These rights are especially important when it comes to law enforcement. One reasonable step to ensure police accountability is for civilians to monitor the behavior of police officers in the streets and sidewalks of their communities. Videotape is simply an effective monitoring technique, creating an object record of interactions between police and civilians. The videotape of the Rodney King beating is one example of the appropriate use of videotape to document law enforcement activity. A person standing in the public way ordinarily can have no reasonable expectation that their words or actions will remain private. This is especially true for government officials carrying out their public duties, Finally, videotaping ordinarily will not interfere with police officers in performing their duties.

Accordingly, the ACLU of Illinois calls upon the Champaign County State’s Attorney to drop its prosecution of Marten Miller.

Thank you.

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