UPDATE: Piscataway only relented on their unenforceable ordinance hampering the public recording their public meetings when ACLU had to inform them of the law. They, and every municipality, need to be reminded they can’t interfere with the free speech rights of the public. Tonight’s TAPE IN is ON. Details below.
Piscataway Council has (wisely) caved, upon hearing from the ACLU that their local ordinance forbidding the public from recording a public meeting cannot supersede the law permitting it. Here’s Piscataway’s notice posted to Facebook. Mind you, resident Staci Berger had already told them they were wrong. Even citing a court case. Which their lawyer could have looked up. Or, you know, should. have. known. already.
And so, TAPE IN Piscataway is still on. Why? Because Piscataway residents are going to hold Council to it. “A Facebook post is no substitute for a right exercised,” say organizers. And you’re invited to be there, whip out your phone (respectfully) or just come bear witness:
Hosted by: Central Jersey Progressive Democrats
Who: Piscataway residents, ACLU members, friends of government transparency, anybody with a cell phone
When: Tuesday, Jan 2 (6-8:30pm)
Where: Piscataway Twp Hall, 455 Hoes Lane (map)
About: Piscataway Twp Council is violating the rights of residents to videotape the Council’s public meetings. At the TAPE-IN demonstration, we will all videotape & broadcast the proceedings in protest of the Council’s illegal actions (which violate a NJ Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling). Legal observers will be present. Facebook event page.
We’ve been watching this develop for several days, but if you need to catch up:
Resident Staci Berger was forbidden to Facebook Live a Piscataway Council public meeting by Council, who cited an ordinance that anyone with basic knowledge of the Open Public Meetings Act would know is not enforceable. Staci’s done work with OPMA & OPRA, and seems to know stuff Council doesn’t – even though they had (a) their lawyer (b) their clerk (c) their business administrator all right there and nobody looked it up.
Staci was accused of being “controversial” < insert dastardly laugh > and threatened that she better close her phone or be “escorted out or the situation could escalate.” A police office stood watching her for 2 hours. As though she might … at any moment … I don’t know … wage surprise transparency on them. Or something.
In fact, she did. Accidentally left her phone on in her bag. You can hear Council’s whole bizarre convo, insulting one of their residents. It’s wild. And it’s why TAPE IN Piscataway is still on.