“I’m standing here taking pictures because they’re militarizing the police,” said the shirtless California man who had just taken photos of an armored car inside the Citrus Heights Police Department’s parking lot.
But that was enough for seven Citrus Heights police to surround the man and attempt to physically disarm him – even though he was standing in area open to the public – claiming the man’s possession of a “big knife” made them feel unsafe, even with their guns and tasers and pepper spray.
However, without a warrant or probable cause that a crime’s being committed, police have no authority to seize weapons or any items.
Citrus Heights is a bedroom community of 83,000 residents northeast of Sacramento, only 10 miles from California’s infamous Folsom State Prison.
The man we’ll call “FT” demonstrated one very important thing in his successful quest to photograph the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) war wagon inside the parking lot of the Sacramento County area municipal police agency.
Know your rights, and how assert them verbally to cops.
No fewer than seven officers eventually responded to the call of a citizen lawfully photographing the department’s military vehicle. FT wasn’t wearing a shirt, but he was open carrying a knife on his belt.
The encounter lasted more than 12 minutes as you can see in the video below..
The photographer replied, “I do not consent to you touching me.” and the officers backed off momentarily.
The Citrus Heights officer continued, “You’re standing here in the back of the police department, taking photos, which is not against the law, but is kinda strange. As we come in and out, we don’t need to be running you over. So what is is that you’re doing over here?”
FT replied, “I don’t answer questions.”
This is a clear assertion of the Fifth Amendment’s right to be silent.
But FT did want to address the absurdity posed by militarized police in suburban communities.
“You have a mine and ambush protected vehicle in this city. Are there ambushes and mines in this city? That’s my problem.” said FT as he pointed out the armored war wagon
The officers then said that, “they’re not going to stand around and play this game.”
Why is it that some police call legitimate attempts at citizen journalism a game?
The exercise of one’s Constitutionally protected rights is no more a game than the penal code and legislation giving police badges, guns and salaries after they swear to uphold the Constitution.
One of the California cops then shouted at FT to, “take his hands out of his pockets” in an accusatory tone, placing his own hand on a service firearm.
The citizen journalist replied, “You’re not going to intimidate me.”
The lead interrogator Citrus Heights officer said that, “we’re not trying to intimidate you.”
Ironic, considering that the officers conceded earlier in the recording that photography is not a crime, and had no other reason to be in contact with the citizen recording them, wishing him to “Have a Nice Day” and to “Move On” repeatedly in the next several minutes.
What happened next proved that police just wanted to intimidate FT to shoo away.
Four officers were already occupying the man’s attention, another two officers snuck up behind the photographer as more cruisers converged on the scene.
Back and forth the discussions went, as the officers attempted to claim the citizen journalist wasn’t allowed to be in a public parking lot.
Some internet research reveals that the Citrus Heights cop accused him of being a Sovereign Citizen – an anti-government movement labeled a terrorist movement by the FBI.
This is a very serious accusation, so serious that just using that movement’s terminology on a tax form can result in a $5000 penalty to the IRS.
FT wisely replied once again, “I don’t answer questions.”
Police have been known to lob baseless accusations as a form of official slander against citizen journalists for photographing the cops, most recently this recalls an incident involving PINAC’s Jeff Gray.
To call an American a “Sovereign Citizen” is to invite official sanctions from the highest levels of government upon an individual.
After 11 minutes of back and forth, FT said that, “if this is how you handle things, I might just come back every day and do this.”
Finally, the California cops got the picture, that they’d met a citizen who knew his rights, who wouldn’t be intimidated by their bully tactics and left.
FT did go back the next day, as you can see from the second video below, and that next day, the MRAP was gone.