HONOLULU -- A public access television crew complained of police mistreatment Thursday, after trying to get a picture of President Barack Obama.
Just after dawn Wednesday, the three-woman crew for a Big Island public access program called "We Are Change Hawaii" drove up to the barricade near the president's vacation home in Kailua.
Host R.J. Hampton was told they couldn't stay, so she spoke into the video camera as she returned to the car.
"OK, you know it Obama we're OK with you, you OK with us,” Hampton said on the tape, provided to KITV. “We just wanted to get a glimpse of you but we're moving on because this is a private street and we don't want to make anybody nervous. Aloha!” She waved to the Secret Service agents at the barricade as she climbed back into the car.
The crew was video-taping vehicle searches along the potential motorcade route as they left the neighborhood. They noticed a van behind them.
At this point, journalist Sherri Kane looked into the camera and said, “Behind us we have the Secret Service following us now so this is kind of exciting.”
Exciting turned to scary after they pulled into a gas station. On their video, a police officer approached the car and said, “Stay in the car. Put that camera off of me.”
Producer Sativa Jones can be heard saying “OK.”
The women said police vehicles and up to five officers surrounded the car, demanded IDs and registration without explanation. Then without warning an officer reached into the car and grabbed Jones’ camera.
“He grabbed it out of my hand and then he slammed it on top of the car,” Jones said. She said the camera was damaged – the automatic lens cover no longer worked.
Jones’ fingers were gashed by the sharp edge on the camera mount. She said the officer appeared shaken by what he'd done and courteously showed her how to complain, writing his name and badge number on a card with contact information for the Honolulu Police Commission.
Kane said other officers on the scene would not let them make a criminal complaint against the officer who grabbed the camera.
“What went down was something that should not happen here in the United States of America,” Kane said. “You have all of these police officers that could be looking at legitimate or people who are really trying to harm the president. Instead, you have so many of them on us.”
Police would not comment on the specific incident but a spokesman said in protecting the President suspicious vehicles are taken very seriously.
Asked if it was legal for police officers to stop someone from videotaping an officer in a public place, the department said citizens are allowed to video in public places.
The Secret Service Office in Honolulu did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comment.
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