Amateur journalist and gun-rights advocate Amy Hedtke of Waxahachie, Texas, was arrested and charged with trespassing at the Texas capitol building when she tried to video a committee hearing of the Texas House. On March 22, Hedtke was at a meeting of the House Affairs committee. She encountered signs both inside and outside the hearing room on that day that claimed only credential journalists were allowed to record.
On Hedtke’s video, she can be heard to tell a staffer at the Texas capitol, "State law says you cannot prohibit attendees from recording.” The staffer replied, “Um, the rules of the House have precedence over that [and] the Constitution, as well.”
Bringing the hearing to order, House Committee chair and State Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, and after calling roll said, "Only credentialed media is allowed to film and record. Anybody else will be asked to leave."
Within moments, a state trooper and several legislative staffers approached Hedtke at the back of the room and ordered to stop recording or leave. "I have the right to stay," protested Hedtke.
“Ma'am I need you to leave. I need you to get your things and leave," a trooper told her. The staffer and trooper reiterated that Chairman Cook was authorized to supersede Texas’s Open Meetings Act. Cook is indeed authorized to eject from chambers any person who is disruptive.
Hedtke was dragged from the chamber and arrested for trespassing. A hearing on Wednesday was cancelled.
Hedtke may, however, have the law in her corner. According to the Texas Open Meetings Act, “a person in attendance may record all or any part of an open meeting of a governmental body by means of a recorder, video camera, or other means of aural or visual reproduction.”
In an interview with WFAA television news, former Dallas County GOP chairman Wade Emmert said, "The chairman can impose certain rules to keep order but he can't impair someone's right to record audio or video in a meeting." explained Emmert.
Hedtke was never accused of being disruptive. Both troopers and staffers repeatedly said that she was not allowed to record. Hedtke is planning to file a civil lawsuit in the matter. Saying that he goal is eliminate the signs that prohibit recording, she added, "There should be zero ambiguity over whether a citizen can peacefully record an open meeting of their government.”
A prolife advocate, Hedtke is described on her Facebook account as a supporter of former Congressman Ron Paul, "agitator," "domestic goddess," and "homeschool mom."
Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.