A New York woman who wandered into an unfenced parking lot behind her local town hall was arrested after photographing police cars Wednesday.
Melanie Swisher was charged with obstructing governmental administration, trespassing and disorderly conduct after she was accused of entering “private property.”
But the area is far from private considering it was part of a government building. And the only thing indicating it was a restricted area was a “do not enter, police only” sign informing people that they are not allowed to park their cars in the lot.
Essentially a traffic sign.
But Swisher was on foot after having made a public records request in town hall regarding her ongoing complaint against unleashed dogs in Elma, a small town in western New York.
According to an email she sent Photography is Not a Crime:
The background information is we have a problem with unleashed dogs in our local town park. I have spoken to the town supervisor Dennis Powers and also the part time dog warden Rob Johnston for over one year. Yesterday I went to Elma town hall to do a FOIA request pertaining to the dog warden’s duties, how many tickets he has written and how much money has he generated thru his ticket writing. They don’t like this and they want to intimidate me.
Upon leaving the building I walked behind it and started taking pictures of the back of the building. This is where town employees park their car and also where an Erie county sheriff’s substation door is located. I want to add nowhere did it say restricted area or no trespassing. I was always on town/public property.
The incident started when a woman who works at town hall stormed out and confronted Swisher as she was photographing cop cars, demanding to know why she was photographing the cars, which she claimed were on private property.
Erie County sheriff’s deputy Thomas Meredith came out and demanded her identification, which she refused to provide on the basis that she wasn’t breaking the law.
They were not aware that she was video recording the encounter as well as the encounter with a town official while making the public records request, which prompted Elma Town Supervisor Dennis Powers to write a “supporting deposition,” claiming Swisher was “verbally abusive to our town clerks.”
Contact Powers at (716) 652-0008 to let him know how you feel about him making up lies against Swisher.