Manhattan Libertarian activist Antonio Musumeci, better known to the teeming masses by his nom de intertubes Bile, filed a lawsuit today challenging a government regulation that unconstitutionally restricts photography on federal property, including public plazas and sidewalks.
Bile is represented in the action by the New York Civil Liberties Union. The complaint names the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Protective Service, Inspector Clifford Barnes of the Federal Protective Service and an unnamed federal officer as defendants.
Bile was arrested on November 9, 2009, after recording with a hand-held video camera a protestor in a public plaza outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.
Bile, who serves as membership director and webmaster for the Manhattan Libertarian Party, was recording an interview in front of the courthouse steps with Julian Heicklen, a libertarian activist who was advocating for jury nullification. They were confronted by Inspector Barnes, who arrested Heicklen.
Bile stepped backward and recorded the arrest. Barnes told Bile he had violated a federal regulation governing photography and arrested him. Barnes and a second federal agent grabbed Bile by the arms and forced him to the pavement as they confiscated the video card from his camera. After being arrested, Bile was detained for about 20 minutes and issued a ticket for violating the photography regulation. That charge was later dismissed.
A week later, Bile was harassed and threatened with arrest after trying again to record Heicklen at the federal courthouse. Again this past Monday he was harassed by federal officers at the courthouse.
“I do not believe government agents have the legal or moral authority to stop people from filming on public property. In this case, the outcome is particularly frustrating because I was creating political content and engaging in a form of political activism,” Bile said. “The courthouse plaza is public property paid for by taxpayers, and the public should not be prohibited from using video cameras there.”
UPDATE: The New York Daily News has picked up the story.