Already arrested twice this year for filming police, Antonio Buehler, 35, received his third arrest early Friday, this time with a UT student.
Buehler and Sarah Dickerson, an art history graduate student, were both arrested near the 1300 block of West Sixth Street around 1:30 a.m. Friday. They were charged with interfering with public duty, a class B misdemeanor punishable with a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail, police said. Jail records show that both Buehler and Dickerson were released on bond later that day. Police said that filming police officers is legal, but if an officer believes that interference has begun, he or she may arrest the person filming on the spot, give them a verbal warning or pursue other approved action.
Buehler and Dickerson were filming Austin police officers conducting a field sobriety test at a DWI stop on West Sixth Street on Friday when an officer involved in the test asked them to back away.
Buehler said he and Dickerson backed away and then followed several other orders given by a different officer, Sergeant Adam Johnson, but despite their attempts to comply with his instructions, they were still arrested.
“We were probably 35 yards away, like over 100 feet away, when he finally arrested us for interfering,” Buehler said. “Officer Johnson said, ‘You have two choices: leave now or go over there,’ and I said, ‘OK, we are leaving,’ and he arrested me.”
Dickerson said she began filming Buehler’s arrest and was then arrested herself.
Buehler said Johnson handed him and Dickerson off to Officer Austin Holmes, who the police consider the arresting officer in both cases.
Buehler and Dickerson said they were concerned about following one of Johnson’s orders because it did not make sense to them.
“Johnson asked us to walk right by the suspect and the arresting officer,” Buehler said. “It was a completely illogical and irrational order.”
Buehler said he thought the order might be a trap, so he asked Johnson if he and Dickerson could move further away instead. Johnson eventually offered them the two options: leave or move to the desired location.
Buehler said the arrest should never have occurred, as he and Dickerson complied with the orders and were leaving as instructed.
“We were exercising our First Amendment rights,” Buehler said.
Lisa Cortinas, Austin Police Department spokesperson, said Dickerson and Buehler were arrested because they failed to follow a police order.
“They were asked to move to the other side of the officer where other witnesses were and they refused,” Cortinas said.
Buehler was first arrested for filming an APD officer in January and has since founded an organization called Peaceful Streets Project. Buehler said his organization works to promote police accountability and, in turn, create a safer environment for the general public. The organization’s initiatives include campaigns to spread awareness about police corruption and on-foot surveillance of police officers by the group’s members.
Buehler said it is important to keep police accountable because an arrest can have a devastating impact on an individual’s life, something he now knows from experience.
“It cost me my reputation,” he said. “Every time someone Googles my name, they see mugshots of me online.”
Buehler said Peaceful Streets Project will be opening several chapters across the country within the next two months.
“We are going to keep going,” he said. “[The police] think that they can intimidate us by arresting us. But every single time they do this, all they do is get people more pissed off, and more people join the cause.”
Printed on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 as: Two arrested in filming, charged with interference