Woman threatened with arrest for livestreaming school board meeting

Jul 26, 2016 by

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – An Alabama woman who was livestreaming the public comments portion of a recent Huntsville school board meeting to Facebook was escorted out by police as she recorded the incident with her phone.

Eddgra Fallin, a vocal critic of the district with the grassroots group Huntsville United, contends that she was forced to leave the meeting last Thursday by two police officers and school security in retaliation for testifying in a federal desegregation case involving Huntsville City Schools earlier in the week, AL.com reports.

District officials, meanwhile, claim they asked Fallin to sit down while recording the public comments and she refused, which apparently compelled them to threaten her with arrest.

“This is them attempting to put me in my place and in retaliation for my testimony in the federal deseg case on Monday,” Fallin told the news site. “This is not the first time they have tried to kick me off of school property.”

“I cannot believe this is the United States of America,” she said. “(At the meeting) they spent over an hour talking about the behavioral learning guide, which outlines consequences for students when they violate the law or break policy.

“But who’s going to hold them responsible when they violate the law or break policy? What happens when the adults aren’t being held responsible?”

The Facebook video, which has been viewed more than 12,000 times, begins with footage of a representative from the Von Braun Astronomical Society discussing an upcoming student event when security officers and district spokesman Keith Ward approach Fallin.

WHNT transcribed the exchange:

“We can’t have people standing up to film,” said Ward. “If you’re going to do that, you’re going to have to sit down.” [The next few words are difficult to distinguish.]  “That’s because I wanted to…” Fallin said.

It appears two security personnel approached with Ward.  The total exchange between him and her lasts for six seconds before the security guards step in and begin to speak in loud voices, causing board members to halt (the speaker’s) comments.

“Let’s have her leave,” a security person said.

“Why do I have to leave?” Fallin said quietly.

“Let’s just go,” he replied.

“Well, I will sit down and tape then,” Fallin replied.

“If you do not leave, ma’am, you’re subject to be arrested,” a police officer said.

“You’re going to arrest me for not leaving a public meeting when I’m not doing anything wrong?” she asked.  “Ma’am, you were asked to leave, by officials.”

“I asked Mr. Burleson if he minded me taping, and he said he did not mind. Is that correct Mr. Burleson?”  Burleson looked over, but didn’t say anything in response.

Another police officer approaches Fallin.  “I just cannot believe this is the United States of America,” she said.

“That’s always been our policy,” said Keith Ward, the school system’s spokesperson.

“That you can’t stand up and tape?” Fallin asked.

“Yeah, because then you’d have everybody …  everyone could stand up and tape,” he replied.

Another Huntsville police officer then approaches Fallin.

“Can I ask you what law I’m breaking?” she asked as she was led out of the meeting.

“You can’t stand … everyone can’t stand,” Ward said.  “We can’t let everybody stand …  and then no one would be able to see, you’d be blocking people — it’s easy to understand. You can tape, you just do it from your seat.”

“I said I would tape from my seat,” Fallin replied.  “So can I stay and at least make the comments that I signed up say?”

“No, let’s go,” a security officer replied.

As Fallin was leaving, she told officials she plans on “contacting my attorney first thing in the morning, and the American Civil Liberties Union.”

She told AL.com she was not being disruptive or block the view of others at the meeting before she was forced out.

“As I indicated last night, I was not violating any written rules, nor did I violate any law,” she said. “The board room was practically empty. Prior to me being kicked out, aisles were full of people taking pictures and video of the college academy presentation and they were invited and encouraged to do so.”

The news site reports Huntsville schools broadcasts its meetings but does not broadcast the public comments portion, which often includes critical comments from the public.

“Scott Seeley, a member of Huntsville United, said he recorded citizen comments at a meeting a few weeks ago with no trouble. Members of the group post the videos to the Huntsville United Facebook page so that people who were unable to attend the meeting can see what was said,” AL.com reports.

Ward defended the district’s decision to boot Fallin from the meeting.

“I had gone out to say, ‘You can tape but you need to sit down,’” he said. “I was whispering to her, trying to be discreet about it. I asked her twice; she simply refused to do so. Then security came in and asked her to sit down; she still refused to comply. At that point is when she was asked to leave.”

District officials and school board members contend Fallin was ejected from the meeting for being disruptive, and refusing to sit down, not for recording the public comments or in retaliation for her testimony.

Regardless, Fallin is “exploring options” for her mistreatment.

“I do intend to do something because this is not acceptable,” she told AL.com. “This time it’s me; next time it’ll be somebody else.”

Source: VIDEO: Woman threatened with arrest for livestreaming school board meeting | EAGnews.org

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