You Do NOT Have the Right to Film the Police, Rules Federal Court, Paving Way for SCOTUS

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Top Tier Gear USA


(TFTP) Contradicting the rulings of six others federal courts, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals annihilated free speech rights in upholding a district court decision stating citizens do not have the right to film public officials — politicians, police, and others — in public.

In affirming the decision of the lower court to dismiss, the Eighth Circuit effectively ended free speech activist Matthew Akins’ challenge to the Columbia, Missouri, Police Department, which he accuses of unlawfully stopping and arresting him on multiple occasions — though nearly all charges were later dropped — as he filmed their encounters with the public, in public.

Akins says the spate of arrests and harassment from law enforcement is brazen retaliation for the nature of his activist work — filming officers on the job.

As a journalist and founder of Citizens for Justice in 2011, a group committed to monitoring police for accountability purposes, Akins frequently stopped to record officers’ interactions with the general public — a tactic employed by a plethora of civilian impartial observation groups to stem an epidemic of police violence and veritable impunity in courts, so common to law enforcement officers who misbehave.

Judge Nanette Laughrey penned in the stunning decision Columbia Police officers indeed had probable cause to arrest Akins each time, and — again, contrary to previous rulings from six circuit courts —that “he has no constitutional right to videotape any public proceeding he wishes to.”

Attorney Stephen Wyse already filed an appeal on Wednesday for the court to rehear the case — originally filed against Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight, two former Boone County assistant prosecuting attorneys, and several members of the Columbia Police Department — as he contended unequivocally, prior,

“You can’t target journalists because you don’t like their reporting.”

ABC affiliate KMIZ reports,

“Wyse took issue with Laughrey’s decision to stay on the case, despite his request she recuse herself. Laughrey’s husband, Chris Kelly, was the head of a city task force on infrastructure, which could have skewed her decisions in a case against the city, Wyse claimed. While federal law does call for a judge’s recusal, the appeals court said nothing in Akins’ case rose to the level of bias or prejudice against his case.”

While the topic of filming the police — of particular interest to law enforcement accountability activists, First Amendment advocates, and others concerned for decaying free speech rights — appeared in federal court before, Laughrey’s ruling goes against precedence established by the First, Third, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits, which decided the Constitution guarantees the right to film public officials in public settings, as long as recording does not interfere.

In fact, Judge Thomas Ambro wrote the decision for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in a similar case comprised of separate instances in which Philadelphia law enforcement actively thwarted the efforts of two citizens, Amanda Geraci and Richard Fields, to film arrests. Both sued for violations of their civil rights, and — like many other litigants — won.

“The First Amendment protects the public’s right of access to information about their officials’ public activities,” Ambro clarified, adding that access “is particularly important because it leads to citizen discourse” on public and private issues — an exalted exercise of that preeminent protection. The government, ruled the judge, is prohibited constitutionally from “limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw.”

American law enforcement, on the whole, has not responded hat graciously to civilians whipping out cell phones and video cameras to record encounters in public — though filming police can indeed provide additional pictorial and audio evidence in the event of contention or disputation.

“Bystander videos provide different perspectives than police and dashboard cameras, portraying circumstances and surroundings that police videos often do not capture,” Ambro continued. “Civilian video also fills the gaps created when police choose not to record video or withhold their footage from the public.”

Laughrey, however, broke ranks in a manner which could portend a precarious existence of certain First Amendment rights — rights which had previously been assumed by the public and averred in peer courts.

“The First Amendment is a core American value,” Wyse asserted in a press statement following the decision’s astonishing departure from precedent. “The right to free speech and a free press are central to our liberty and our ability to hold our government accountable. This holding of the 8th Circuit undermines the basic rights of Missourians and the citizens of the six other 8th Circuit states and undermines the First Amendment rights for all Americans.”

Reports indicate Akins — barring an unlikely rehearing in the Eighth Circuit Court — may indeed appeal his case to the Supreme Court. Because multiple federal judges have upheld the right to film police and public officials as a constitutionally-protected activity on multiple occasions, the ramifications of Laughrey’s ruling may not be as far-reaching and detrimental as appears now — but the ultimate litmus test seems inevitably poised for SCOTUS.

In the meantime, irascible law enforcement officers keen to prevent civilians from filming their activities would do well to remember two crucial points: recording public officials keeps them responsible and accountable for their actions — but can also protect them in situations of disputing claims. After all, raw video recordings — not police, officials, or citizens — have no need of mendacity and duplicity.

“We ask much of our police,” Ambro wrote in the July decision. “They can be our shelter from the storm. Yet officers are public officials carrying out public functions, and the First Amendment requires them to bear bystanders recording their actions. This is vital to promote the access that fosters free discussion of governmental actions, especially when that discussion benefits not only citizens but the officers themselves.”

Laughrey, unfortunately, did not agree — and now the public has yet another constitutionally-protected right left dangling by a fraying thread.

This article by Claire Bernish originally appeared on and is licensed Creative Commons 4.0. Image: Flickr/Timothy Krause.

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  • David E

    stopping or preventing the public from filming police is destruction and/or suppression of evidence, besides the obvious first amendment issues. Any court should be ashamed of ruling against filming the police.

  • Fortunately constitutional rights have no enforcement clause, so violations of them cannot be prosecuted.

    • ReverendDraco✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ

      They could be prosecuted as treason, as the violation and suppression of Rights gives Aid and comfort to the enemies of a free state.

      • If that were true, all of the prisons in the country would be full of military members.

        • ReverendDraco✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ

          Do we know if anyone has ever attempted prosecution under those grounds?
          Especially considering “they hate us for our freedoms.”

          • No self-respecting prosecutor would dare try something like that unless they are well-known traitors, like McCain…

          • I don’t see the Clintons, Bushes, Osama being prosecuted for Treason, nor Song Bird or Comey, the entire CIA heads of past & present.

          • I don’t know of anyone who has ever been indicted for it.

        • The Punishment for Treason is Execution, so I disagree.
          In the extreme exception – Exile.

          • Where is such specified? Kindly provide a proper citation.

          • Why don’t you learn to read and stop wasting people’s time & patience ???

          • You must have stopped reading at death, after which it says ” or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

          • Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”

          • So it’s Ok for the mafia & the rich to do it to the masses, but we can’t do it to them ?
            I will use The Patriot Act and the NDAA legislature.
            Stop while you’re behind Kidiot.

          • Only if you are a fan of the United Nations like most cretins are.

    • lee ho fook

      maybe WE are the enforcement clause, Bronua…sounds right to me. If not we the people, who?

  • Ideas Time

    Our rights are Unalienable and not subject to the opinion of a corporate employee masquerading as a judge. One could accuse the executive administrator of treason but she likely never took an oath to support the constitution as required under Article 6 Clause 3. Since March 1 1991 they changed their oaths of office and ignore two major requirements that include no religious test ” So help me God” and they must swear to defend and uphold the constitution which was eliminated. What does this mean. Her pseudo kangaroo court opinion is Void.

    Will any BAR attorney bring this up? No, they all work for the state and the Crown.

    This article covers this in detail. Enjoy when you have time.

  • Mike

    I will film who and what I want. Screw you you idiot judge.

    • I’d prefer to use digital video to save the cost of film processing:-)

      • Lbt

        Wiretapping is also effective.

        • If there were anyone using landlines anymore.

          • Lbt

            Telephone tapping (also wire tapping or wiretapping
            in American English) is the monitoring of telephone and Internet
            conversations by a third party, often by covert means. The wire tap
            received its name because, historically, the monitoring connection was
            an actual electrical tap on the telephone line. sic

          • Americans do that a lot with lexicon. They take a word and use it for things it was never meant to mean. It is a major reason why the Constitution is disregarded and ignored, because the original meanings of the words in it have been forgotten. Modern fibertaps, as I prefer to call them, are done partially physically, with a optical splitter, and partially with a Narus machine.

          • ARJAY

            I do, as did my mom (until she recently died, still have that landline in use). So does my M-I-L! So, yes, there are those of us that are still living in the dinosaur age!!

          • Thank the F.C.C. & AT&T/Bells monopoly on interstate telecom., we’re still running copper wires in the age of Fiberoptics.

          • When the cellular networks get hacked to the point in unviability, you’ll wish you had them back.

          • NSA/Google/Android – Is a hack by design system, stay in school kid.

          • I graduated high school in 1972.
            I suspect, based on your posts, that you haven’t yet.

          • I see, that why you leave bullshit posts on all of my comments.
            You failed Sheeple.

          • You are a babbling moron because I graduated high school in 1972?

          • Since the demand is falling as people abandon landlines, the costs of maintaining them will be distributed among fewer and fewer customers until no one will pay what they are worth to telecoms that pretty much ignore them, anyway.

          • From the tower, it’s ALL landline to the HQ. Your “wireless” is only the last 10mi. leg.

          • It is all fiber now. The size of the copper cable required to support the average cell site would be bigger than a sewer.

          • I am talking about landline internet wires and landline phones, that is what is discussed here.

          • Wire is made out of copper, fiber not so much.

      • People still use film ?

        • They claim to be by saying that they filmed something.
          I have never seen a cellphone with a film camera in it.

          • Lbt

            The system needs to be very specific to what constitutes recording. People will not be able to assign to memory or recite anything.

          • Because their memories have been dumbed down with everything else.
            Do you own a camera that uses film?

          • Lbt

            Yep, but there are many ways of recording something.

          • And, so?

          • Lbt

            And so… think things through a little more thoroughly?

          • And avoid using ad hominem?

          • Lbt

            Do I own a camera that uses film? …. strawman….

          • You are expecting me to be prescient in determining if you have a film camera, and when I can’t be, I’m creating a strawman? You need to talk to your psychiatrist about your loss of awareness of reality.

  • dav1bg

    The deep state is deeper than we thought.

  • jimmy joe

    So, does that mean ALL video, as in, you know, SURVEILLANCE,? If that ruling is indeed “law”, then private businesses need to be taking theirs down, any of them that are directed on public land, right?? What does that mean in reverse, they can’t video us? Is this another “law” that only applies to certain segments of the population??

    • The Tuna Fairy

      Red light cameras?

      • Gracehlong


        Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! :!ad221d:
        On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
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      • Geraldinelzackery


        Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! :!af120d:
        On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
        ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash410TopPilot/Pay$97/Hour ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★:::::!af120l..,..

    • There is no such thing as “private business” they’re all Public and have no rights to exempt themselves from ANY laws.

      • Tanafthomas


        Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! :!ag185d:
        On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
        ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash475BuzzDollar/Pay$97/Hour ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★:::::!ag185l..,…..

  • karatekawoman

    Hey! State of Missouri! Kindly take all your fascisto-communist public officials, and secede from the United States, post-haste, because you’re un-American. We don’t live in a police state, and we won’t sit back while your fascisto-commie judges and other public officials try to make it into one. And take the Clintons (who appointed this stellar example of Marxism to the bench), with you. May I interest you folks in one-way tickets to Venezuela?? You’ll feel right at home. They’ll happily “show-you” their state.

  • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

    It’s laughable that these fuckers expect us to be ok with the NSA and any and every other alphabet soup agency to spy on us in our own fucking homes-as well as in public-but we can’t film/record public officials or government agents in public. Long ago these criminal bastards, wearing robes and presiding over the courts, made it known that they serve the interests of the state rather than upholding the Constitution. Now they’re just wagging it in our faces and laughing at us. We’ll see who’s laughing at the gallows…

    • aWhiteBoatCominUpTheRiver

      DC lawmakers give Netanyahu 29 standing ovations in a 35 minute speech.

      Congress appropriates 3.2 billion $’s a month to Israel.

      The Anti-defamation League privately pays for US Police to travel to Israel and train with their IDF.

      Is it actually possible that the government has been off shored already?

      And that everyting they tell us is a lie?

      • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

        Our government has been off shored for decades and, yes, everything they tell us is a lie. The problem isn’t only Israel. Our government is beholden to a vast cabal of corporate globalists led by the super elites-Rothschilds, Rockefellers, et al-and the banks which launder money for them. We, as a People, still have power, but it dwindles by the day.

        • You’re pandering to the comment of a NeoNazi.
          Nor have the Rockefellers ever been Jewish.

          • Most modern Jews are ashkenazis.

          • In what world ? Step out of your basement once every blue moon.

          • The real one.
            I haven’t lived in a building since 1985, or a basement since 1978.

          • Hahaha, Funny, but no, you’re Lying.

          • Sorry, but I have plenty of witnesses to the fact that I have been a vandweller since 1985, and I grew up in a basement bedroom, so I know what a basement is.
            The real world is a real complex thing for such a simpleton to try to understand, but keep trying, it might happen.

          • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

            When did I ever imply the Rockefellers are Jewish?

          • Then why did you stop at those two ?
            Morgan and Wachovia took a big chunk of the banking business.
            CEOs of Exxon, Chevron, Conoco, BP, Shell have not been Rockefellers in a long time.
            Gaurdy & DuPont, Raytheon & GD military industry.
            NAZA/USAF for all other “science” projects like the Hadron Collider, HAARP & Geo-Engineering.
            What about Old Money Mafias of the past millennia like: Italian/Vatican, Irish/British, Polish, German/Dutch/Austrian, Chinese Dragon Clans, Japanese Yakuza ?

          • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

            I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. I identified the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds as super elites-not Jews. Furthermore the term et al means “and others”, suggesting-indeed meaning-there are more people/groups not mentioned or listed. I did this in the interest of brevity rather than some purposeful exclusion of any one person or group. Within the context of my post, nothing in your response makes sense. The only part of my comment that was in any way Jew-ey is my contention that Israel isn’t the only problem/issue, once again, meaning there are others involved. Come on, man. This shouldn’t be so difficult.

          • How is Israel a problem ? You are responding to a NeoNazi spouting lies and you accept the lies by not opposing them.
            Israel is being given $3.2 billion in aid per YEAR not per month, while the combined aid to Arab states per year is $24 billion. So whom is USA helping more ???

        • We need to do the only duty we are assigned in the Declaration of Independence ASAP.

      • Congress gives All Arab states a total of $24 Billion per year.
        Your numbers are fake Muslim Terrorist.

        • Congress should be prosecuted for illegal and unlawful appropriations.

          • USA keeps Israel dependent on handouts so as to manipulate their government any which way they want, after 2008 giving Arab Muslims the capital of Israel, what more damage can you do to it ?

          • The only thing wrong with your post is that you transposed USA and Israel.

          • No, I haven’t NeoNazi Kidiot.
            Who Profited from Middle Eastern Invasions ?
            Exxon, Chevron, Conoco – USA, Canada, Australia
            BP – UK, Spain, France
            Shell – Holland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany.
            Who is taking in the most Arab Muslims by Slave Labor ?
            The Americas and Europe.
            Now STFU !

          • AIPAC has a lot more pull with your congresscritters than you do.

  • aWhiteBoatCominUpTheRiver

    Can police still be filmed having sex?

  • lee ho fook

    WHAT? Can’t photo “officials” and police? WHAT?? No way…ok people, get your cameras out and click away every official and cop that you comes across.

    • Charles P

      OR BETTER.
      PRETEND TO!!!!!!!!!!!!
      When they LATER SEE NO PHOTOS/VIDEOS ON YOU/YOUR DEVICES (such as a smart phone), SUE THE CROOKS (Police) FOR FALSE ARREST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      NO PHOTOS. NO CRIME was committed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • G’ma G

        A hundred thumbs up. This is a brilliant peaceful way to throw it right back in their faces and bog down their courts. Reminds me of the folks who went around with water pistols to pretend they were peeing just to show how quick police are to jump to the conclusion a law is being broken.

      • lee ho fook

        Go to the head of the class, Charles!!!

      • Photographs are not superior authority to a police officer as a an eye witness.

  • lee ho fook

    maybe we can attach a camera to it to cover all bases?

  • John C Carleton

    Maybe this is what the owners of the Empire desire.
    You let law ENFORCEMENT rape, rob, beat, kidnap,murder, the populace, with the populace having absolutely no recourse, some of the populace will turn to the only recourse left available to them, to protect themselves and their families from Washington DC’s criminal street gangs.

  • Harry L

    use hidden cameras. Post anonymously.

  • Charles P

    They can have their POLICE CAMERAS ALL OVER THE ROADS, to catch traffic violations!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Some jack@ss judge ruled that PERVERTS can shoot “up skirt photos” of people in stores.

  • endofwatchersbegan1/28/2011

    The Police and Courts are SUBJECT to the People. The People make the LAWS, not the Courts or some degenerate Judge. In the reality and foundation of our Nation. The Constitution applies ONLY to the SUBJECTS of the People, which is the Government itself to GOVERN and RESTRAIN THEM, created BY the PEOPLE. The People have been subjugated into being “subjects:” of the Government, which is ILLEGAL by definition, according to the Preamble. Done by hook and crook, and an unwitting and IGNORANT People, Ignorant of the LAW. Ignorant f the Law because the Govt. worked to make it as such, taking over the Education System to remove the knowledge of the Law.

  • James

    Cam it. Let them tell there lies. A week later post the truth on U tube. Does more damage that way to them.

  • anonymous4u4me

    Piss on the court and its decision, you have the right to film and do as your god given rights dictate.

    • Kindly cite a court case where God testified in person?

      • G’ma G

        point of clarification. The reference is to “god” not “God”, as in just a figure of speech, not a religious testament.

        • A figure of speech cannot testify in court as the giver of rights.

          • G’ma G

            And yet, oddly enough, the courts let corporatized fictions testify.

          • Having a flesh and blood witness makes all the difference in a temporal courtroom.

  • SP_88

    The government has cameras and every other type of surveillance device all over the country. There are very few places without a camera monitoring everything going on there. We are forced to live with their cameras at traffic lights and in public buildings and everywhere else, but the police don’t want to be filmed while beating an elderly or handicapped person with their batons because they were jay-walking or selling loosies.
    This is clearly a violation of our first amendment rights. These are public officials interacting with the people in a public place. There is no expectation of privacy in public. We don’t get to have privacy in any public place, why should the police? Especially since they are the ones who have violated our trust and violated our rights time and time again. They need to be filmed by the public to keep them honest and to keep them from using excessive force against people who aren’t “resisting arrest”, and to keep them from shooting people without just cause and then fabricating an excuse for it.
    The cameras police wear should be running the entire time they are on duty. And the feed from their cameras should be fed live to the internet so anyone can select a state, city and police officer, and watch everything they do. There should be a list of all officers on duty in every city of every state that anyone can click on to watch the feed from their body camera. And this video should be inaccessible by anyone other than to view it or copy it to another device. The police should not have the ability to alter or erase any of these videos. And any cop who doesn’t have their camera on while on duty should be written up the first time, suspended without pay the second time, and fired the third time.
    And the supreme court needs to uphold our right to video tape the police in public, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their job, and punish any cop who tries to interfere with anyone filming them as a violation of our Constitutional rights.
    The cops are the ones who should be saying that, “If we don’t have anything to hide, we have nothing to worry about.”

    • You obviously don’t get out the city much, do you?
      We should start by abolishing the standing armies that are called police departments.

      • SP_88

        Do you mean “get out [to?] the city” or “get out [of?] the city”? Because I don’t live in the city. I hate cities. I hate crowds of people. I hate the constant noise of the city.
        I’m also aware that there aren’t forests with cameras hidden in the trees to watch squirrels sell crack to raccoons.

        • So you haven’t actually seen all the cameras in the cities you don’t live in? 🙂
          WyoDOT has the most extensive digital network in the state. Part of that is roadcams spread around the state that can be used to check the weather conditions and the road conditions. They also use it to provide Wyolink, which is the state-wide communications network used by the Wyoming State Patrol, which is a division of WyoDOT. These cameras are in globes whcih leaves no question that they can be steering, in case they need to keep an eye on the squirrels and raccoons. Most of the methamphetamine trafficked in Wyoming is the Ritalin given to the school kids, but that doesn’t prevent the governor from sucking up to the DEA by making us all feel like criminals when we buy our ephedrine and pseudoephedrine at the pharmacies.
          The second largest user of Skype in the country is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, which uses it to do seminars worldwide.

  • Phil_Ossifer

    Actually, this ruling might not be so bad because now it can be appealed to the Supreme Court. But, once it is, one of three things can happen: 1) SC(r)OTUS declines to hear the appeal; 2) SC(r)OTUS votes to take the case and rules that we do indeed have a right to film cops; or, the worst possible outcome: 3) SC(r)OTUS takes the case and rules that we have no right to film cops. If they hear the case the ruling could go either way. It’s too bad that this couldn’t have waited until Trump got to appoint a couple of conservative constitutionalists to the court as replacements for a certain aged, senile liberal (((Ginsburg))) and Steven “Constitution is a living document” Breyer.

    • You can’t appeal anything to the SCOTUS that they won’t grant cert to, and that is about 1% of what is applied for.

      • Phil_Ossifer

        Refusal to grant cert = denying to hear the appeal. I’m pretty sure they’ll want to hear this one, though, simply because it’s obvious that the appeals courts can’t agree. Still, with the court as presently constituted, a positive outcome for the right to film the cops is far from certain.

        • A one in a hundred shot at cert makes a controversial case of battling federal appeals courts less rather than more likely to be granted cert. Appeals courts don’t have the panache that district courts do.


    So don’t use FILM! Does anybody use movie cameras any more. Most RECORDINGS are made on some type of digital recording NO FILM (therefore you didn’t FILM them)!!

    So get them on the technicality that you didn’t FILM them!!

    • Motion pictures are still shot with film. After editing, they are distributed, mostly, by digital disks and projected with digital projectors.

      • ARJAY

        Yes, I’m very well aware of the motion picture industry still using film. I was referring to the general population. I don’t think anyone in the general population carries around professional film industry cameras.

        • I’m not aware of anyone in the general population ever carrying around professional cameras of any kind, they having always been heavy and expensive. There are a few really dedicated amatuer photographers still using 35mm still film, but 35mm motion picture film far outsells it. Television production has pretty much given up film, having switched to small format videotape by the time I was in broadcasting school in the mid 70’s. Many broadcasters have gone to flash memory and SSDs.

          • ARJAY

            I started TV production using 3/4 inch SONY video tape. Then we went to the super VHS tape. The industry then went to digital recording with out tape of ANY kind. That’s why I dont thing that ANYBODY is using film to make recordings of family or police actions. It’s (recording of police) is almost exclusively recorded using cell/smart phones.

          • I’ve long advocated for deployment of teams of videographers whose captured video would be immediately streamed onto the Internet and mirrored worldwide so that it can’t be seized or suppressed. They are too concerned with inadvertently outing themselves to make effective use of technology in self-policing.

  • Unfortunately, after 2000 they have been equipped with the full military body armor.

  • Don’t people GET IT yet?
    What will it take?
    A decree from a ‘Public official’? HA