Citizen Journalists to Stand Trial

According to the OC Weekly, two live-streamers in Orange County, California are facing charges after filming video during a  protest that was ruled unlawful by the police.

AJ Redkey and PM Beers apparently filmed Fullerton police in January when protestors took to the streets following a not guilty verdict for former police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicineli in the beathing death of Kelly Thomas. 

Opening statements began on Tuesday. The jury will decide whether Redkey and Beers acted as protesters or press for staying at the scene after police issued an order to leave.

The prosecutor told the jury that the evidence in the trial will show the pair remained at the protest despite authorities telling everyone to leave. He apparently failed to mention their work as citizen journalists.

The defense portrayed their clients as media members with protections.  “Ms. Beers is a live-streaming journalist,” said defense attorney Derek Bercher. Her footage is central to both the case for and against her. “The video tells the story because she’s a story teller.”

Redkey’s attorney argued his case in the same manner. He claimed that Redkey started off that day as a protestor but later took over live streaming the event before police arrived at the scene.

The duo was not arrested at the scene, instead Beers was apprehended a few hours later and Redkey was cuffed three months after the ordeal. 

The question of whether live-streaming during an unlawful assembly is protected journalism remains in the jury’s hands. But they will also have to decide whether the demonstration really needed to be declared unlawful.

The defense used Beers’ own footage to cast doubt on whether the protest was out of control and unruly enough to shut it down.

Fullerton Police Sgt., Pedram Gharah, testified that he observed what he believed at the time to be a fight waiting to happen between a shirtless driver and activists.

The fate of Redkey and Beers rests with the jury. If found guilty, they could face up to six months in prison.

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