In a move that should make civil libertarians cringe and despots all over the world smile, Ohio Republican congressman Steve Chabot ordered police to confiscate cameras from members of the public who showed up at a town hall-style meeting. In all, anyone with a cell phone, camera, or camcorder found themselves minus the device after police made the rounds thought the crowd.
The excuse for such an infringement on civil rights: to protect privacy. Really? Privacy? This was an open to the public meeting on a public place, after all.
To add further insult, the local media was allowed to continue filming.
In addition to the camera seizure, others are crying foul over the method of questioning the congressman, namely people writing down questions as they enter, Chabot staffers screening them, and then then these same staff members deciding what questions people are allowed to ask of the congressman. While the official line from the Chabot camp was that the camera seizure was to protect peoples’ privacy by a preemptive strike against the possibility of a Youtube hit, the real reason may have been that the congressman didn’t like the idea of being caught off-guard by an unexpected question from the audience.
Tim Burke, Hamilton County’s Democratic Party chairman, is already asking for an investigation into the matter, specifically Chabot’s use of a public facility and his order to seize the cameras in such a place.
In response to the public relations nightmare, Chabot spokesman Jamie Schwartz said that new procedures will be in place at the next meeting, namely that cameras will not be seized and that people with questions of a personal nature that could bring about privacy concerns will be allowed to speak to the congressman in private.
Obviously, as with anything regarding politics, there are going to be a lot of opinions regarding this event. The real test of the Chabot camp will come in the congressman’s next such meeting. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how people with cameras are treated.
Oh, yes, video the whole fiasco was posted to Youtube, anyway, too.
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