So often, we hear stories about the growing “police state.” While it is legitimate to be concerned by police officers who abuse their power, it is also important to point out and acknowledge officers who uphold the law with dignity and respect for citizens’ rights. This story particularly caught our attention, especially with the growing concern over TSA tactics in airports.
Two activists, Ashley Jessica and Jason Bermas, showed up at the Albany International Airport in November 2012 to protest what they believe are invasive techniques used by the TSA.
The duo handed out packets to travelers in common areas outside of security that contained information regarding citizens’ rights to opt out of full-body scanners. Jessica and Bermas were also informing citizens that they have the right to film pat-downs performed by TSA officials.
After spending some time at the airport, Director of Public Affairs Doug Myers approached them along with an Albany County sheriff’s deputy. Myers ordered the two activists to stop filming.
The activists refused to stop filming and were brought downstairs where the interaction became tense.
Finally, Deputy Stan Lenic told Myers that as far as the law is concerned, Bermas and Jessica had every right to be filming. Lenic said, “Obviously, this is your constitutional right.”
Myers then commanded Lenic to keep the activists downstairs. Lenic said, “I can’t really keep them down here.”
Myers responded, “Then we’re going to close to all but ticketed passengers. We can do that. Only ticketed passengers upstairs from now on, OK?”
He then asked Bermas and Jessica to fill out a form and show identification, but Lenic intervened once again and said the pair did not need to do this.
The video of the incident went semi-viral online, and eventually the airport’s CEO, John O’Donnell, issued a statement regarding the matter. He said, “On Nov. 23, we asked two individuals to move away from the escalator area of the terminal where they were distributing fliers. Our concern — as it always is — was for the safety of the passengers and the public who were in the airport. It had nothing to do with their message or the content of their handouts. The policy we have in place for filming and leafleting in the airport is intended to help us ensure that this type of activity does not interfere with normal airport operations or safety. We would welcome them back to the airport to distribute their information. Filing a simple form and providing advance notice of their arrival are all that is required.”