No one would have known what happened to George Floyd without cellphone videos shot by bystanders of Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck. Under a new Arizona statute, such bystanders could face a $500 fine and 30 days in jail. On July 6, Gov. Doug Ducey signed the law, which makes it illegal to record law-enforcement officers from within 8 feet of police activity.
The new law is unconstitutional. Last week the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals became the seventh federal appellate court to hold that the First Amendment protects the right to record police activity. A three-judge panel noted that a major purpose of the First Amendment is to “protect the free discussion of governmental affairs.” The First Amendment protects news gathering, which includes filming the police. And recording is “unambiguously” an exercise of free speech: “If the creation of speech did not warrant protection under the First Amendment, the government could bypass the Constitution by simply proceeding upstream and damming the source of speech,” the court held.