On Heels of Open Meetings Victory, Tisdale Assaulted, Arrested at GOP Event
With additional reporting by Matthew Charles Cardinale
(APN) ATLANTA — After finally claiming victory in an open meetings dispute with the City of Cumming, Georgia, that had been going on since April 17, 2012–where Forsyth Superior Court Judge Robert Adamson ruled that the City violated her right to videotape its meetings–activist and videographer Nydia Tisdale found herself in a new dispute related to her videotaping of political events.
In a ruling dated, August 21, 2014, Judge Adamson utilized the courts’ new powers under the Georgia Open Meetings Act to fine elected officials who violate the Act. Adamson fined both the City of Cumming and Mayor H. Ford Gravitt 6,000 dollars for three separate violations–1,000 for the first violation, and 2,500 for each subsequent violation–for a total of 12,000 dollars.
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, whose office handled the lawsuit on behalf of Tisdale, praised the ruling.
“This ruling is a major victory for government transparency,” Olens said. “Georgians deserve a government that operates openly and honestly.”
“The Georgia First Amendment Foundation (GFAF) is thrilled to see the ‘new’ open government law in action. Enforcement of the state’s Open Meetings and Records Acts are a critical component of the duties of the Office of the Attorney General, and we are delighted to see access rights preserved. We were particularly pleased by the use of the new civil penalties provisions of the new open government laws, and look forward to seeing more of these types of cases,” Hyde Post, President of GFAF, said.
Only two days later, on August 23, 2014, Tisdale was forcefully removed from the Georgia Republican Party Dawsonville Rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm, by a Dawson County police officer and taken to jail when she refused to stop videotaping.
According to a video of the arrest, Tisdale asked the officer numerous times to identify himself, but he refused to do so, saying he would do so “later,” and then later saying his name would appear on the arrest warrant.
The video also shows him physically assaulting her, dragging her out of the event, and then holding her down. At the end of the video, it shows him taking the video camera away from her and placing it down. For a few seconds, the video shows her screaming, “You’re hurting me! You’re hurting me!” Finally, the officer shuts off the video camera.
Brian Pritchard with FetchYourNews.com was sitting behind Tisdale with his recorder and camera openly displayed and continued to recorded and take pictures the entire meeting without incident.
Tisdale was taken to the Dawson Detention Center and charged with criminal trespass and felony obstruction of an officer. She posted a 6,200 dollar bond and was released in the middle of the night.
Tisdale has been videotaping the political scene for years and is known and liked by many politicians. She has a website, AboutForsyth.com, where she posts her Youtube videos of different political events.
Atlanta Progressive News syndicated Tisdale’s videos, including her video of activist Ray Boyd offering 100,000 dollars to anyone who can prove that E-voting machines reliably count and report votes on Election Day.
It seems that Republicans are afraid of an independent woman with a video camera.
About fifteen minutes into the event, an unidentified man told Tisdale to stop recording or leave.
She explained that she had talked with Kathy Burt, the property owner, and she had no objection to my filming.
Then Clint Bearden, an attorney with Speaker David Ralston’s law firm, told her “We have a policy of no recording.” “Show me the policy,” Tisdale answered.
“Bearden left and an unknown officer came and before I knew what was happening, he had my hand and arm twisted behind my back,” Tisdale told Atlanta Progressive News.
In the Dawson News, Johnny Burt accuses Tisdale of lying and misrepresenting herself to his wife.
“What she did is she came in and told my wife and daughter that she was there with the Governor to record him, so we thought she as part of their party,” Burt told the Dawson News.
Tisdale denies Burt’s charge.
“I did not say that I was with the Governor. I did share with Kathy Burt that I had video recorded Governor Deal on August 2 at the North Fulton Victory Republican Party office in Roswell along with Purdue and other Republican candidates. I have filmed the Republican Party previously and if she had an interest in watching that it was on Youtube. I explained to her that the video that I was about to record at her Pumpkin Farm would likewise be available on Youtube,” Tisdale clarified to APN.
Tisdale’s video equipment continued to record as Captain Tony Wooten arrested her. The video is available on Aboutforsyth.com here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4aNrT-0ITA
Sheriff Billy Carlisle accused Tisdale also in the Dawson News of kicking Capt Wooden in the shin and elbowing him in the mouth.
“I did not hit the officer. He had one of my hands twisted behind my back and my other hand was on my camera. At no time did I hit the man who forced me out of the barn and refused to identify himself,” Tisdale told APN.
Not everyone trashed Tisdale, she had one very powerful defender. When it was Georgia’s Attorney General, Sam Olens, turn to talk at the event, he defended her.
“Let me be possibly politically incorrect here for a second. If we stand for anything as a party, what are we afraid of with the lady having a camera filming us? What are we saying here that shouldn’t be on film? What message are we sending? Cause it’s private property, they shouldn’t be filming? What is the harm? The harm that this poses is far greater than her filming us. What are we hiding? If we are telling you why we are running and what we stand for, what are we hiding? There is no reason for that, that is not right. (Pointing to where Tidsdale was forcefully removed) The private property owner has the right to not have the person there. Who is the winner in the long run? Not a good move,” Olens told the prominent Republicans.
Dawson County Republican Chairwoman, Linda Clary Umberger, also denounced the attack on Tisdale.
The event was advertised as a public event by Governor Deal’s campaign through social media. The Dawson News also advertised it as a public event. At no point, was there a sign or a public announcement that this public event could not be filmed by a journalist.
Tisdale promoted the event for a week on various forms of social media including Twitter.
She reports having problems sleeping and eating after the incident. “My body is bruised and battered and I am sore and hurt,” Tisdale said.
“It’s very upsetting, its very troubling, it’s unconscionable in our country with flags flying behind the speakers that this could happen in front of our elected officials and candidates,” Tisdale told APN. “I felt safe at a Pumpkin farm.”