I went to the #OurFirstStand rally in Newark New Jersey on January 15, with the purpose of recording the expected protests against NJ Democratic Senator Cory Booker’s no vote on Bernie Sanders’ amendment for importing drugs from Canada. After the rally was over, I was talking in the hallway with some protesters that I had met that day, and others that I have known since the Bernie Sanders campaign. Some stated that they were waiting to meet with Cory Booker privately to discuss his vote. This was the first I’d heard about it, but if I was able to get in, I wanted to. I am a journalist. I am also a constituent, living in New Jersey just across the river from Philadelphia.
(You can see me talking with people in the hallway around one hour and 40 minutes into the video, Cory Booker walks in a few minutes before it ends.)
A staff member came out and said that the senator required the meeting to be off the record, obviously meaning no recording devices. People protested this but ultimately agreed to the condition. I was still recording my livestream at the time. The staff assumed that I was with the protesters wanting to be part of the meeting, and when asked if I was a journalist, as you can hear on camera approximately seven minutes from the end, I said no.
As I walked into the meeting and sat down, I was still recording, holding the phone naturally by my side. Before the senator walked in, I stated to the audience, “Hopefully you will be able to hear things,” strongly suggesting that I was indeed going to record it. Cory Booker walked in and we started introducing ourselves, and about halfway through the introductions, about one minute and 30 seconds to two minutes in, I shut it off.
As soon as the meeting ended, I approached the staff members and told them that I lied (I used that word, “lied”) and that I was a journalist with Citizens’ Media TV, but that I honored their off the record request. That the livestreams were on Facebook for them to see if they wished.
Afterwards, I interviewed two other participants about what happened in the meeting, without revealing any of the confidences. During the conversation, I stated how I was not a protester and how I got caught up in becoming a participant, and that I let it happen, and that it was exciting.
I don’t overtly protest. My way of protesting is to give other protesters a louder voice with my camera. That’s the foundation of everything I’ve done with Citizens’ Media TV. So I’m not a protester and I am a protester. You could argue that I didn’t belong in a meeting exclusively intended for protesters.
I am a constituent of the Senator’s, am strongly against his vote on the amendment, and do not buy his justifications for doing so. Those who attended the meeting would hopefully agree that I acted like a well informed constituent, respectfully but forcefully told the senator my opinion, and that I belonged there with them.
You could also argue that I technically violated the off the record request by recording some of the introductions. I did not record any of the main portion of the meeting which was more than an hour long. I also did not violate any of the off record confidences at any point.
I lied about being a journalist, I technically lied about not recording the meeting, and although I disagree, I understand the perception that I did not belong in the meeting at all.
I’m sorry. I apologize to the senator, his staff, and to the viewers. As I stated soon after turning off the camera, we’re going to do this right, or were not going to do it.
One of the things that the senator said in confidence during that meeting, was that he was going to propose his own amendment that satisfied his drug safety requirements concerns. Just today it was revealed publicly that he did even better than that, and is standing with Senator Sanders for new ligislation that, starting in two years, allows imports with more overt safety controls.