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ACLU webinar: Know your rights at DNC

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Protesters during the Democratic National Convention are by law allowed to photograph, videotape and audio-record anything in plain site, without restriction, said city attorneys during an online forum Monday night.

Hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the webinar – “Know Your Rights at the 2012 DNC in Charlotte” – was designed to inform the public of their constitutional rights as thousands pour into the area for the convention Sept 4-6.

“No state court has held that police officers performing their jobs in public have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” said Chris Brook, legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina.

Police aren’t allowed to confiscate photos, videos or audio-recordings without a warrant, nor are they allowed to delete them, said Mark Newbold, deputy city attorney for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.

The only instance where it could become a problem would be if someone’s photography or videography were impairing police from making an arrest on a third party, Newbold said.

In that case, police would give an “order to disperse,” during which interested parties could continue to record, as long as they didn’t interfere.

The panel tackled other controversial measures, including the designated “speakers platform” and a new ordinance that prohibits backpacks, satchels or coolers if police believe they are being used to carry weapons.

Newbold said police will not make judgment calls based on protesters’ messages, but only on violence or intent to incite violent behavior.

Only if a bag is suspected of being “excessively heavy” or holding weapons, including large pipes and rebar, would it be searched.

Police, including those from out of state, have been trained to differentiate, Newbold said.

City Attorney Bob Hagemann discussed the city’s “speakers’ platform” which will give people an exclusive 30 minutes to speak with city-provided amplification equipment.

Critics have argued that the platform, which will be at the southwest corner of South Caldwell and East Stonewall streets, directly behind the convention center, is in an out-of-the-way location.

“No matter where we put it, we’re going to be criticized,” Hagemann said. But “it does give pretty close access to delegates getting off buses, on foot, going into the convention center.”

Whether the platform will be barricaded or otherwise cordoned off will be determined by how the speakers’ platform in Tampa works at the Republican National Convention next week, Hagemann said.

He added that there are still open spots in the speakers’ platform lineup, and interested people should contact the city to sign up. Fewer groups than anticipated signed up for the city’s lottery to allot speaking times, and many demonstrators are expected to shun the platform.

McMillan: 704-358-6045
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