Freak Radio Reporter Arrested for Taping Public Meeting

Robert Norse, a reporter with Freak Radio Santa Cruz, had no idea his mini-tape recorder would cause so much trouble.
On Monday, Norse attended the inaugural meeting of a special committee empaneled by the the Santa Cruz, CA city council. The “Downtown Issues Task Force” is charged with implementing a controversial city plan to “clean up” downtown Santa Cruz. In addition to effectively outlawing panhandling, the plan would also place severe restrictions on street theater, leafleting, and the ability to set up informational tables.
According to Norse’s account of the meeting posted to the Santa Cruz Independent Media Center, 10 minutes into the DITF’s meeting, its chairman – councilman Ed Porter – took issue with Norse’s tape recorder, which had been set up in plain view on the table.
Porter reportedly asked Norse to stop recording and Norse refused, citing open meetings laws and his right as a reporter for FRSC to document the discussion. After asking police to remove Norse (which they refused to do), Mr. Porter performed a “citizen’s arrest” on him, which forced the officers to kick him out of the building where he received a misdemeanor citation for “disrupting a public assembly.”
Mr. Porter obviously doesn’t know what he’s up against: not only has FRSC been operating mostly 24/7 for more than seven years now (in direct defiance of multiple FCC warnings), but in 1999 the Santa Cruz city council approved a resolution in support of the station. The resolution also urged the FCC to legalize low power FM radio. Mr. Porter wasn’t on the council at the time.
Robert Norse later commented, “If Ed wants privacy, he should retire to private life. He’s a public official & this was a public meeting. I have a job to do as a radio broadcaster. If he’s going to arrest the media for every tape recording, the police will be mighty busy.”
Knowing some of the folks involved in FRSC, they’re not likely to let Ed Porter off the hook easily for this…