Monday night, at a “town hall” meeting in North Avondale featuring U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, video cameras owned by two Democratic activists were seized by a Cincinnati police officer at the direction of Chabot’s staff.
Further, Chabot's staff did not direct police to confiscate the video cameras of everyone present. They only worked to confiscate the video cameras of opponents (emphasis mine):
A Chabot spokesman said the had the cameras seized “to protect the privacy of constituents” at the event, although there were at least two media outlets at the North Avondale Recreation Center filming the meeting.
How is it legal to confiscate recording devices owned by your political opponents at public meetings? The explanation from Chabot's staff is that if Chabot's staff thinks you might, maybe, possibly do something they don't like with the video, then law enforcement can confiscate your camera:
[Chabot staffer] Schwartz said that sometimes at the town hall meetings, citizens ask questions about their own personal situations and the Chabot staff did not want them videotaped. The media cameras were allowed to continue to roll, Schwartz said, “because they can be expected to respect people’s privacy.”
As ridiculous and offensive as that argument is, it is actually a cover for the real reason why Chabot's staff had recording devices seized. Chabot wanted to stop his political opponents from publicizing anything at the town hall that might portray him in a bad light. He even named the specific opponent he had in mind when talking to The Hill:
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) faced angry protesters at a town-hall meeting in Avondale, Ohio, on Monday. He said Think Progress, the liberal political advocacy group, organized the protest.
In addition to his staff's extremely dangerous legal justifications for confiscating recording devices at public events, Chabot is incorrect about the organization behind the protests. Many progressive groups are involved in driving people to town hall events this August, but Think Progress isn't one of them. To see a list of the actual groups, click here and scroll down.