Citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale was in Dawson County Superior Court this week for a pre-trial conference on charges that could send her to prison for up to five years.
Tisdale was arrested while attending a political rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville two years ago when she questioned instructions to put down her video camera. She was there to record speeches from Gov. Nathan Deal, then-Senate candidate David Perdue and Attorney General Sam Olens, among others.
When she didn’t comply immediately, Dawson County Sheriff’s Capt. Tony Wooten twisted Tisdale’s arm behind her back and “frog marched” her out of the rally and pinned her to a counter before telling her she was being arrested.
People who were there say Tisdale never should have been arrested, that she was caught up in campaign paranoia over video “trackers” from competing campaigns. For years, Tisdale had been attending political events and government meetings, recording them and putting them on YouTube without commentary.
Tisdale said she never knew Wooten was a law enforcement officer. Prosecutors don’t believe her. Wooten had a gun and badge. Tisdale said she was looking through her video camera view finder and did not see either. In the video she recorded, one hears her breathless cries, “What is your name, sir? Let go of me!”
Wooten charged Tisdale with obstruction of an officer, claiming she resisted her arrest. Defenders of the First Amendment say the charges against Tisdale are disturbing and a threat to press freedoms generally.
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