A self-described anarchist, who was tweeting at the G-20 summit, was arrested. Elliot Madison was accused of directing others to avoid arrest. Madison’s home in New York City was searched. He was charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of instruments of crime.
Hmm, I’m not sure why an anarchist needs to be called “self-described” while a Democrat or Republican doesn’t. However their interview with law professor and former prosecutor Paul Butler helps explain what happened.
NPR: We wondered, is telling protesters that there’s a cop up ahead arresting protesters any different from blinking your headlights on the highway to signal there’s a cop up ahead with a radar gun?
BUTLER: There’s no universal agreement about whether when you do that you’re committing a crime. So, in a few jurisdictions, people have actually been charged with traffic offenses for warning about police. So, in a sense, this is a glorified version of that.
NPR: And that would include busting people for communicating logistics to other demonstrators about where to go?
BUTLER: Well, that’s the very difficult decision the judge will have to make. So these cases present difficult First Amendment issues. It’s perfectly legal to protest, but it’s not legal to help the bad guy run away. So, it’s a thin line, not a thick line, between those two.
Where does journalism end and helping protesters avoid arrest begin? If I tweet “Police at 5th and Main,” is that journalism while “Police at 5th and Main, avoid area,” isn’t? If I tweet “Police order crowd to disperse at 5th and Main” then aren’t I actually helping police, not hindering them?
The pretext for this arrest seems tissue-thin. There are serious First Amendment issues here.