Two recent cases in Southern California illustrate the trend of people defending their liberties and fighting back against the encroachments of law enforcement. In two completely separate cases, the cities of Victorville and Upland, California are being sued by residents for numerous civil rights violations.
In Victorville, the lawsuit involves the illegality of red-light photos cameras. Michael Curran of Victorville filed a class-action lawsuit against both the city and RedFlex, an Arizona company which operates the cameras. Curran and his lawyer Robert Conaway appeared in a local NBC TV interview about the suit. Curran insists that he has a right to cross-examine witnesses, that the photo evidence is inadmissable, along with the fact that an out-of-state company should not be involved in enforcing the city's traffic laws.
A San Bernardino County Sun article on the matter stated, in part,
"Conaway estimated that about 5,000 people qualify for the class-action suit. The suit seeks $9 million in damages and more in punitive damages. ...
"Defendants have reaped enormous fees by systematically violating the due-process rights of plaintiff and other class members," according to the lawsuit.
The website FireRedflex.com has a "Cameras Coming Down" page, listing many cases where cities across the country have pulled the cameras due to various reasons, such as increased accidents and inadequate revenue generation.
Many people have also been fighting their tickets in court for the past several years, with varied success. [See Red light camera tickets defeatred in California]. The website HighwayRobbery.net is a top-notch website with information opposing the cams, and HelpIgotaTicket.com (the free site where I personally learned how to fight tickets and have since beaten over twelve in court) offers folks a list of questions to ask the prosecution witness (the officer) in court in these red light camera cases. [See also our red light camera section.]
The other lawsuit is a very interesting case out of Upland, Ca regarding the right to open carry firearms. Unfortunately, the State of California passed a law prohibiting open carry of handguns in the state late last year, but this July 2011 incident occurred prior to the law being passed. [See our Jan. 2011 article Calif. Rep seeking open carry gun ban just returned from Israeli political trip for details on California Democratic Assembly Representative Anthony J. Portantino, [44th District] who introduced the open-carry ban bill AB144.]
Two open-carry activists, Christopher Hacopian of Ontario and Scott Gibb of Adelanto, filed a federal lawsuit last year alleging the city violated the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Amendments by illegally detaining, searching them and recording their firearm serial numbers. The city offered to settle the lawsuit for $100,000 but the plantiffs refused. The Victorville Daily Press reports that "The jury trial is set for July 17 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles". The two plantiffs are represented by attorney Jonathan Birdt.
The two men had holstered weapons and were passing out informational leaflets about open-carry at the Crossroads Colonies Shopping center, located at the 210 Freeway and Campus Avenue in Upland. People at a jewelry store in the center, which had been the target of an armed robbery in the past, were reportedly frightened at the site of men with guns and called police. Police initially put the men in handcuffs on the ground and detained them for over 15 minutes.
Immediately following the incident in response to public outcry, the acting Chief of Police of Upland Jeff Mendenhall issued a statement acknowledging that the two open-carry advocates had broken no law and that "officers made mistakes during this contact and the incident could have been handled better". He also noted "when Command Staff became aware of the call and how it was handled, immediate steps were taken to ensure all officers received refresher training".
Hacopian, a staunch defender of the U.S. Constitution who served in the U.S. Marines, posted a link about the civil rights lawsuit on his facebook page, noting "This is gonna be fun".
Hacopian has been in the news before, when he thwarted a late-night robbery at a Denny's restaurant. in Ontario, CA. Yih-Chau Chang, the Oakland Gun Rights Examiner noted in his article about the incident that the "Ontario Police Department was only willing to release the case number--110501713" regarding the robbery and not the actual report, despite repeated requests for the public records.
Video footage of the original Upland incident was recorded by Hacopian and is on youtube in two parts:
Upland PD 1 of 2 (currently 7,301 views)
The video subtitles contain information about one of the officers listed in the complaint, stating "This link is a court case of Sgt Berry Belt was Stalking, Harassing, SEXUALLY ASSAULTING and Violating a restraining order while on duty (his MISTRESS) !!!!! Why is he still a Police officer? http://www.accesslaw.com/unpublished/CA_Unpublished_Opinions/E038884.pdf
Part 2 of the original incident was uploaded by another youtube user "fknblshyt" on Feb 20, 2012, and currently has 894 views. This is a must-see, outrageous video which should have millions of views, not 800. The Upland police officer originally turned off Hacopian's video camera before he got it back and resumed recording.
A third video, Upland PD's audio recordings, includes 5 downloadable links to audio of the original incident.
The detainment of the two gun-rights activists also starkly raised the issue of the public's right to film police.
The contentious interaction includes officers saying things such as "don't play games with me" and "what part of this don't you understand", while an indignant Hacopian relentlessly defends his rights and demands his firearm back.
Despite the fact that their own Chief later admitted that they were wrong and needed retraining on the matter, Upland officers at the time insisted "knuckleheads ruin open carry policy", that the two men were "not cooperating", and "there are certain rules you need to follow". In part two of the video, Officer Duran states "instead of walking by a store that recently got robbed at gunpoint by three men,...somebody's gonna misinterpret what you're doing. How about you do it in a productive manner..."
At one point, Hacopian states, "YOU HAVE ILLEGALLY DETAINED ME, searched my firearm serial number.." and reiterates that the police turned off his videocam. The Supervising officer eventually comes to return the gun to Hacopian, who is cautiously reluctant to take it in his hand while the officers stand by.
Scott Gibb, the 2nd man detained in the Upland incident, is founder and president of the Open Carry Club. At the end of the video after being released by officers, he reiterates the right of the public to film police officers while they do their job and states "these officers have violated many rights and they will hopefully be reprimanded for it."
Officer Duran, who is featured prominently in the video, makes an astonisihing admission upon questioning to Hacopian, stating "No, I don't believe in transparency of government".
Officer Duran states "I'm not hiding I have a recorder going." He then says "I am... (points to his chest for emphasis and begins again) I am legally allowed to tape, you can't when we are in the middle of an investigation."
Hacopian: "I am legally not?? What is the penal code that states I cannot tape you?"
The officer does not reply, and Hacopian asks
"Do you believe in the transparency of government?" to which officer Duran astonishly states
"No, I don't believe in transparency of government".
H: Well then you shouldn't be an American.
Cop: You're a prime example of what we deal with
H: And you shut off my recording device why? Because youre trying to hide something.
Other cop: You're free to go. Thank you.
Martin Hill is a Catholic paleoconservative and civil rights advocate. His work has been featured on LewRockwell.com, WhatReallyHappened, Infowars, PrisonPlanet, National Motorists Association, WorldNetDaily, The Orange County Register, KNBC4 Los Angeles, Los Angeles Catholic Lay Mission Newspaper, KFI 640, The Press Enterprise, Antiwar.com, IamtheWitness.com, FreedomsPhoenix, Rense, BlackBoxVoting, and many others. Archives can be found at LibertyFight.com