Trenton, NJ — Filming the police is entirely legal, in every state. However, all too often, we will see police officers overstep their authority and arrest, attack, and assault innocent people for the constitutionally protected act of documenting their behavior in public. As the following case out of Trenton, New Jersey illustrates, police officers will go to extreme and often violent lengths to make sure they are not being filmed, up to and including beating and falsely arresting a female bartender at her place of work.
In March 2019, the Championship Bar on Chambers Street was about to close for the night when bartender Elizabeth Cisco heard a commotion outside. When she went outside, she found multiple police officers roughly arresting a single non-violent person. So, she started filming.
In the land of the free, there are ostensible checks and balances which are in place to prevent corrupt and power drunk government officials from overstepping their authority and depriving people of their rights. The largest ostensible restraint on this power is the constitution. However, as TFTP has reported for years, despite the fact that police swear an oath to uphold this constitution, they are all too often the ones who ignore it and the cops in the video below are perfect examples of this.
As Cisco began filming, she was mostly silent. However, as police dragged the man away, she began to politely ask questions like, why is he being arrested?
“I don’t know, I wasn’t here dummy,” one officer rudely responds to Cisco's police question.
"[He was] talking sh*t to the cops," another officer responded.
"Talking sh*t to the cops?" Cisco asked. "There are seven f*cking cop cars out here to arrest one person for talking sh*t to the cops?"
As other individuals expressed their dismay with the situation, police began arresting them too. Cisco simply backed up and kept filming but this apparently enraged officer Antonio Wilkie-Guiot, according to a lawsuit filed by Cisco this week.
As Cisco filmed, according to the complaint, Wilkie-Guiot aggressively approached Cisco, ripped away her phone and slammed her against a wall, then down to the pavement.
In the video, you can clearly tell that Cisco is not interfering or otherwise presenting any threat to officers other than recording their actions. Nevertheless, her phone is violently ripped from her hands and she is attacked.
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According to the lawsuit, as Wilkie-Guiot brought her down, other officers jumped on top of her as well. During the violence, Cisco slammed into the ground causing her glasses to hit her face and received two black eyes and multiple cuts and bruises.
According to her attorney Patrick Whalen, the force used on Cisco was, “excessive, unreasonable, and unconstitutional.”
Wilkie-Guiot went after Cisco “and violently ripped the cell phone out of her hand, for absolutely no reason other than her filming the events,” according to the lawsuit.
Whalen says none of the violence doled out to Cisco that night was justified. He has the court case to prove it too.
After she was attacked, Cisco was arrested by the officers who beat her and then charged with failing to disperse and resisting arrest. After her case went before prosecutors, they had no evidence on which to charge her, so her case was thrown out.
“Ultimately, they [charges] were dismissed due to the Trenton Police Defendants’ failure to provide relevant and material discovery that the Trenton Municipal Court had ordered to be produced,” Whalen said.
As TFTP has reported, it has been clearly established that all Americans have the right to record the police. For officers to remain willingly ignorant of this precedent is at best, dereliction of duty, and at worst, unlawful deprivation of rights. It is unclear if any of the officers involved have faced consequences for their actions. However, it is very unlikely.
Below is a video showing what can happen when cops don't want to be filmed.
UDATE: This article originally stated Cisco was working as a bartender the night she was attacked. However, she was a patron at the bar in which she worked that night. Cisco also informed TFTP that it was her classes which caused the black eyes, not punches as we originally reported. We apologize for the discrepancy.