One individual’s arrest is causing a stir in Stamford, Connecticut, about each citizen’s right to free speech and right to criticize police departments. Last month, Michael Friend was arrested by the Stamford Police Department when they discovered he was carrying a sign that warned drivers about upcoming police checkpoints. Friend was charged with a misdemeanor count of interfering with police.
While Friend was in the courthouse being arraigned, Michael Picard decided to stage a protest outside in opposition to Friend’s arrest. Picard was allegedly carrying around a sign that read “F*** Free Speech –Stamford PD.” Picard enlisted the help of a friend, Dawud Talib, and asked him to video record his protest. The duo’s protest eventually moved from the courthouse to the police station.
Police Chief Jon Fontneau confronted Picard and demanded that he stop holding the sign up around the station. He threatened to arrest the pair for breach of peace. Picard refused to comply and was arrested, but the cameraman complied and was not.
Police reports indicate that Picard was jumping in front of pedestrians, but this narrative is contrasted by the cameraman’s footage. The police report also noted that Picard was using “offensive and indecent language.” The Police Chief also claims that Picard was not on a public sidewalk, but video evidence contradicts this statement.
Picard has regularly joined in protests that oppose police checkpoints. In 2015, his video camera was seized and he was ticketed for holding signs up warning drivers about DUI checkpoints ahead. The officer who took his video camera failed to turn it off, so footage captured officers conspiring to find a reason to press charges. He later filed a civil rights lawsuit against the police which resulted in his charges being dropped.