A group of self-described First Amendment auditors are using cellphones and cameras to film police headquarters, jails, federal holding centers, and other public buildings around the country. The activists say they are filming public servants in an attempt to capture their conduct.
Not everyone likes their tactics, but are they really dangerous terrorists?
What are the objections?
"Usually refusing to identify themselves, they zoom in on officers and employees, calling them by name and often making them visibly uncomfortable — some even frightened," the Kansas City Star wrote. "Occasionally — and especially if the encounters become confrontational — they stream their videos live, prompting their viewers to call the police departments and other offices to protest what they say is wrongful treatment of the 'auditors.' The videos are then posted on YouTube, where they receive thousands of views and elicit a barrage of comments."
The idea is not necessarily new, as the so-called First Amendment auditors have been around for at least a few years on YouTube. Some of the videos show the activists being handcuffed, pepper-sprayed, and tossed around by authorities who don't like them filming employees and buildings.
One of the auditors is Patrick Roth, who runs the YouTube channel, " News Now Patrick." Like others, he travels around the country, filming and confronting public employees and leaders. He has lately been focusing his attention in the Kansas City area and other cities in Missouri and the state of Kansas, according to the news outlet.
"The intent is never to scare anybody," Roth told the Kansas City Star. "The intent is never to freak anybody out. I'm a reasonable guy. I'm not radical, I'm not crazy. All that I wish to do is go in these buildings unmolested and film."
Why are they deemed dangerous?
Critics, on the other hand, claim the auditors appear to be inciting people. And they're afraid one of their confrontations could turn violent, the news outlet stated.
Some have labeled the activists "sovereign citizens," a loaded term that can mean many things, including people who are "anti-government."
"I am definitely concerned," said Bob Paudert, the former police chief of West Memphis, Arkansas, told the Kansas City Star. His son and another officer were "gunned down" by sovereign citizens during a 2010 traffic stop, according to the report.
"These are the same tactics the sovereign citizens use," Paudert said. "The language they use, going into city office buildings, refusing to give their names but demanding you give yours, videotaping everybody.
"They're harassing city employees and government employees, and they've got no legitimate reason for being there other than just to film," Paudert continued. "They're trying to provoke these people to make an arrest or hit them or whatever. The problem is, the employees don't know how to handle it. They're not sure what to do."