|November 26, 2012
Tommy Russo publishes the Maui Time weekly newspaper in Maui, Hawaii, and he has a history of police encounters due to his independent style of journalism.
This week he was arrested for the second time in the past year, this time for recording a police checkpoint which was set up to collect revenue from people who had minor code violations with their vehicle or registration.
The video of the altercation shows Russo pulling up the checkpoint, stepping out of his car and walking up to a police officer who ordered him back to his car, but didn’t say anything about the filming. Next he came across a second cop who was extremely hostile with him and eventually arrested him when he asserted his rights.
Police charged Russo with “obstructing a government operation” because they couldn’t find a legitimate charge to book him under. Even if it was a legitimate charge, according to the local law books Russo was not guilty of obstruction
It is likely that this case will never stand up in court, and the cops probably knew that when they arrested him. The point probably wasn’t to get a charge out of the deal, but mainly to get Russo out of their way and shut him up. When anyone tries to hold the police accountable for what they are doing, they have no choice but to fall back on force because that is the only social tool that they know how to use.
At this point it is easier for cops to lock people up for harmless things like this because right now it is a minority of people who are actually trying to hold them accountable. However, if there were a few more people getting out of their cars at this checkpoint demanding accountability along with Russo, the cops would have no clue what to do.