Thursday, September 22, 2005

The SMC Corsair's News Coverage

I am happy to announce that yesterday, September 21, 2005, the Santa Monica College newspaper, The Corsair, gave us a front page feature story. I commend SMC's courage in writing and publishing this article. Hopefully, the article will soon be online at the Corsair's website. In the meantime, you can check out more on the SMC Corsair article on our official SAVE SMC Website. You can read the article by clicking on PART 1 and PART 2 on our site.

It is interesting to see that no one from SMC's administration was available for comment. Also, it is interesting to see that SMC's Campus Police Department filed formal charges against the SMC photojournalist for taking a photograph of the president, Thomas Donner, being served a copy of the lawsuit on behalf of defendant, Santa Monica Community College District under the guise of "disturbing the peace." The weekly incident log for September 2005 states the following:

PENAL CODE-MISD. 415 Pc Disturbing The Peace SEP 8 2005-Thursday 05-09-08-19099

People? Do they mean the SMC Corsair photojournalist and the process server? Those are the only two people I am aware were there at the time of this alleged incident. Isn't serving someone with a lawsuit a protected right? Furthermore, isn't it our constitutional right to have freedom of press? According to the Supreme Court decision Tinker v. Des Moines School District, "students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate." (393 U.S. 503). The Court further stated, as cited in the online article, Unfettered Press, Constitutional Protection (by Robert S. Peck): "In our system, students may not be regarded as closed-circuit recipients of only that which the State chooses to communicate. They may not be confined to the expression of those sentiments that are officially approved....Students are entitled to freedom of expression of their views."

Unauthorized photos? Since when in the history of important news events does a photojournalist stop to ask permission to take a photo or a video tape? Would the LAPD grant permission to the video taper of the Rodney King beating? Unlikely? Would we, as the public, have had access to this crucial event if the video tape was classified as unauthorized and incriminating? Of course we wouldn't. The service of process of the SMC president was an important news event for the SMC community. To threaten the photojournalist with criminal sanctions was, in our opinion, unreasonable and another instance of abuse of the SMC Police Department whose own mission is "service to students and community." By filing criminal charges against an SMC student for documenting a legal event as it pertains to our access to public records, we allege that SMC was not serving the students or the community, but serving instead the president of the school and its own self-serving interests.

California Penal Code 415 states:

415. Any of the following persons shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than 90 days, a fine of not more than four hundred dollars ($400), or both such imprisonment and fine:
(1) Any person who unlawfully fights in a public place or challenges another person in a public place to fight.
(2) Any person who maliciously and willfully disturbs another person by loud and unreasonable noise.
(3) Any person who uses offensive words in a public place which are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction.

According to the above law, neither the SMC Corsair photojournalist nor the process server broke this law. They did not fight, they did not make loud and unreasonable noise, nor did they use offensive words. In fact, the Corsair photojournalist did not say one single word! The process server only said, in a very quiet voice, those words necessary to effectuate the service of process of the Verified Complaint and Petition under the CPRA. Yet, Gina Cole, an employee of SMC, stated to both the process server and the SMC Corsair photojournalist, "Please leave. Campus Police will be out there to meet you." We'll leave it to you, dear readers, to decide if Gina Cole was in violation of Penal Code 415 when she made that statement.

In any event, given these charges against the SMC Corsair photojournalist, it is a miracle that the SMC Corsair had the courage to publish this article on behalf of SMC. Our unending thanks goes out to SMC Staff Writer Tiffany Franklin for maintaining both her journalistic integrity and courage to take this assignment and to write such an objective article.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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