At a Wednesday meeting of the D.C. Taxicab Commission (DCTC), two journalists were arrested by Park Police for taking photos at the public meeting.
Pete Tucker, who writes for TheFightBack.org, showed up to the meeting, held at the Park Police headquarters, to document a proposal to implement a new medallion system.
During the first hour of the meeting, a taxi inspector approached Tucker and told him that he couldn’t take photographs of commission members seated at the front of the room.
Tucker snapped a photo of the inspector. According to his account, two Park Police officers approached him, and one said, “You can come with me or you can get locked up.” He responded that he was merely documenting a public meeting.
The officers, responding to a request from a commissioner, arrested Tucker and led him from the room in handcuffs. Jim Epstein of Reason magazine recorded the arrest on video, using a cell phone camera.
Leaving the event, Epstein was also arrested.
According to an article written by Epstein for Reason, “as I was attempting to leave the building, I overheard the female officer who had arrested Tucker promise a woman, who I presumed to be an employee of the Taxi Commission, that she would confiscate my phone.”
Epstein wrote that Reason intern Kyle Blaine heard the officer say, “Do you want his phone? I can get his phone.”
Epstein was told by the officer to “stay put.” When he attempted to leave, he was surrounded by officers who told him to remain or be arrested. “I didn’t move, but I tried to get the attention of a group of cab drivers who were standing nearby. At this point I was arrested,” Epstein writes.
The incident outraged local politicians and journalists.
City Councilman Tommy Ward, chairman of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, wrote an open letter to D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan asking for a review.
Ward wrote that he was “troubled by actions taken by the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission (DCTC) at a public meeting today at the U.S. Park Police headquarters.”
(Tennessee law on online images under constitutional review by state’s attorney general)
According to Ward, “following the request of DCTC members or staff, two armed Park Police officers entered the auditorium, put a reporter in handcuffs, and removed him from the room. This was reportedly for taking photographs or making a video recording of the proceedings at an open and public meeting.”
“Please review the actions taken today, as well as the purported DCTC policy prohibiting photos and video,” Ward wrote.
Washington Post columnist John Kelly wrote a scathing review of the events, placing blame on interim commission chair Dena Reed, who he wrote “seems to have an issue with freedom of the press.”
Kelly reported that the to-do began when an unidentified man attempted to record audio of the meeting. Reed, according to Kelly, would not permit a voice recorder on her table, so the man sat on the floor to hold it.
During an opening for public comment, Tucker “complained that Reed was not following the city’s open meetings law. Then he sat down,” Kelly wrote.
“A few more people spoke. Then, suddenly, a clot of Park Police officers frogmarched Tucker out of the auditorium,” Kelly recounted. “Apparently, he had used his phone to take a photo of the commissioners at the table, something Reed had forbidden.”
Kelly reported that several taxi drivers were upset by Tucker’s arrest. “We need the reporter here,” a driver said. “This is America,” another lamented. Many drivers walked out of the meeting in protest.
The incident is not the first black eye for either the Park Police or the Taxicab Commission. Kelly wrote of a 2008 occasion involving complaints from handicapped citizens who were prevented from traveling with their service animals.
Last month, Park Police arrested five people for silently dancing at the Jefferson Memorial. A week later, they closed the memorial after dancers returned to challenge the ban on dancing.
Park Police Public Information Officer Sgt. David Schlosser could not be reached by The Daily Caller for comment on this story.