Nearly one year ago, August 21st, 2011, cameras were seized from two Cincinnati area political activists by the Cincinnati Police Department at the instruction of Rep. Steve Chabot's staff members. ProgressOhio Communications Specialist, David P. Little was at the forefront on the battle and sprung into immediate action in conjunction with the ProgressOhio team. Within hours the incident had became national news, was roundly condemned by political players of multiple philosophies and forced a dramatic reversal in policy by the Congressman.
The activists in question, along with 150 other citizens, were in attendance at a public town hall meeting at the North Avondale Community Center hosted by Chabot. Police were called to halt the legal recording of the Congressman's public statements. Upon arriving, police were falsely told that "illegal" acts were taking place and that the cameras must be confiscated. The authorities did so utilizing repeated threats of arrest. The cameras were turned over to the Chabot staffers by the police officer at the site.
The city of Cincinnati recognized seizing the recording device under threat of arrest was a clear violation of constitutional civil rights and today's settlement documents included a detailed apology, clearly stated official policy changes and a rebuke of Rep. Chabot's staff for intentionally giving the police officer called to the Town Hall false instructions as to the illegality of the act of recording the Congressman's remarks.
Paul DeMarco, noted Cincinnati attorney who handled negotiations said, "The city has clearly stated that it violated my clients constitutional rights based on incorrect information that Mr. Chabot's representatives supplied."
ProgressOhio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg, remarked, "I'm proud of staff for recognizing when the rights as citizens are being violated and fighting back. I applaud the city of Cincinnati for acknowledging the situation and committing to better observe the public's political rights going forward."
David P. Little, the primary force in this elongated struggle, addressing the controversy praised the settlement, saying, "I am proud of my beloved city for honoring our rights as citizens and recognizing that free speech and basic political and civil rights were infringed and for their determination to never allow the actions of any official to violate thwart our most democratic of aspirations."
Little, in his press conference remarks this morning, made special note of the officer who was called to the town hall and the difficult situation that the Chabot staffers placed him in, "The officer was simply mislead as to the reality of the law and none of this regrettable incident was his fault. He was doing his duty as he was instructed at the site, but he was a gentleman and is a credit to the police force. As Officer Hill stated that evening- his goal for the evening was to protect the community by 'tracking down the bad guys'. We hope that his record will remain unblemished by this incident and that he is given the fullest opportunity to be among the very best in our Cincinnati Police Force."
Little added, "I would like to thank the CPD Internal Affairs division for their solid and rapid investigation of the town hall incident. Their diligence gave the city the facts so that this settlement with the plaintiffs could be amicably reached today".