Amy Courts was far enough away from an arrest last week that you can hardly even make out what's happening.
Too close for one of the cops making the bust, who, in the opening seconds of a video Courts recorded of the incident, yells out: "How about you guys back off while we have guns out?"
Courts yells back: "How about put the guns away?"
"No, we're not!" comes his reply.
"His hands are up!" Courts yells back, before beginning to narrate the scene for her audience, saying three cops had their guns drawn on two men in the street. Courts was at 36th and Halifax, just over the line separating north Minneapolis from Robbinsdale. The Robbinsdale Police are executing the arrest.
The same one who'd called out to Courts before says something inaudible that ends with "...just be smart about it."
"Just don't shoot!" Courts implores back.
Posted by Amy Courts on Thursday, August 16, 2018
He didn't, and the next couple minutes played out as a tense-but-uneventful clip of the arrest. At the end, Courts says: "At least no one's shootin' today, that's good."
Not with guns, no, but Courts' cellphone recording was viewed as an offense by the officers involved. After the real drama was over, one Robbinsdale officer approached Courts and told her she was being cited for "obstructing a legal process." She's now got a court date on September 20, where she intends to contest that charge and another for "interfering with a peace officer."
Courts, a singer/songwriter, seminarian student, and activist who lives in north Minneapolis, says she's been in touch with attorneys and activists about her case, and has "no intention of rolling over" in court. "I don't believe the charges are reasonable, so I want to see them dismissed," she says.
As for what, in fact, Courts was watching, Robbinsdale Police Chief James Franzen tells City Pages the stop she filmed was the result of a vehicle alert for a car registered to a suspect wanted for first degree burglary. That man was arrested, cited for driving with a revoked license and marijuana possession, and turned over to the Bloomington Police Department.
His passenger that day was released at the scene without charge.
Chief Franzen declined to comment on an "active" case against Courts, which he says has been referred to the Robbinsdale City Attorney. Speaking generally, he said citizens are within their rights to record police actions, and it's "not uncommon these days for that to occur."
Franzen continued: "The issue of obstruction can come into play when someone interjects themselves into the situation and becomes more than just an observer. Each case can be unique of course and would ultimately be decided by the courts."
Courts denies that's what she did on this video. "I didn't interject myself at all—I responded to an officer who spoke directly to me."
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