The city code in a Texas town is being challenged by YouTubers who say they are “First Amendment auditors” and who consider Killeen city ordinance to be in violation of the First Amendment.
The ordinance in question is said to be treating speech as capable of interfering with the work of an official. This is something YouTuber and one of the “auditors” Kevin Duane Butler – who has recently been arrested for filming police officers – says goes against a relevant state law.
The “audit” movement that aims to check how officials interact with the public and to what extent their constitutional rights are respected has been around for more than a decade.
The way Butler, who a report in the Herald said is a resident of Arizona, got in trouble in Killeen, Texas is by filming a pair of police officers conducting a traffic stop. In a video he took, Butler is heard telling one of the persons inside the car that they don’t have to provide ID if they are a passenger.
To this one of the policemen responds by accusing Butler of breaking the law by interfering with police business. Under the city’s now contested by activists code, this is listed as “interfering with or obstructing an officer” and is a misdemeanor.
Other than the questions arising from the claims that this code is not in line with the law and whether citizens have the right to verbally interfere (Butler in one of his videos states that he has the right to berate the police if he likes), observers are split into those who think the idea of YouTube “First Amendment auditors” who also consider themselves to be citizen journalists is good as it brings more transparency and accountability, and others who disagree.
Ahead of Tuesday’s discussion about the city ordinance, the Killeen Police Department announced that, “due to the public interest” in the incident involving Butler, “we will be conducting an investigation into the matter.”