This Photographer Just Defended the First Amendment for You

This Photographer Just Defended the First Amendment for You

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The cauldron of American race relations boiled over again at the University of Missouri where graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike to protest the school’s insufficient response to racial incidents on campus. Calls for President Tim Wolfe to step down hit a tipping point when the school’s football team refused to practice or play in a game that would cost the university $1m.

Protesters set up a campsite in Carnahan Quadrangle in the heart of the campus, and established a self-proclaimed “Safe Space” to block media without an explanation of its purpose (Updated: In a since deleted tweet, @CS_1950 stated, “We ask for no media in the parameters so the place where people live, fellowship, & sleep can be protected from twisted insincere narratives”).

Among the throng of reporters that showed up to cover the national media story was student Tim Tai, on assignment for ESPN. What unfolded was a lesson in civics and civil behavior on his part captured by Mark Schierbecker on video:

Despite being shoved, harangued and bullied, Tai reminds protesters of his right as a journalist to cover the event in a public space. He doesn’t raise the spectre of assault charges. He doesn’t push back. He continues to work the scene while reminding people of his right as afforded by the First Amendment.

For a relatively young guy, Tai acts undeniably old school.

He reminds people that State Law allows for equal access to the quad:

He doesn’t want to be a part of the story:

He respects the protestors’ rights, and opposes threats against them:

He reiterates that the story is about systemic racism, not him:

And he gets the shots that tell the story:

The day after Mark’s video went viral, the protest group #ConcernedStudent1950 posted the following in the Quad.

Tai is rightfully being heralded in the press (here, here, here) for acting the way we would hope any journalist would in a similar situation. But to Tai’s own point, a discussion of his First Amendment rights is a distraction from the real story of systemic racism. Nevertheless, the virality of the video that captured his professionalism literally changed the protesters position overnight.


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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Fredrik Naumann at 4:31 pm

    You may also want to mention Carlos Miller who runs

    He has been on a crusade since 2007, for the right to photograph in public spaces.

    Unfortunately his quest seems to have veered somewhat off track lately, becoming more anti cop than pro photography. Even if mr Miller may have lost some focus I am in no doubt he has fought many, many more and tougher battles – including legal – for the first amendment than Tim Tan has.

  2. Mike at 12:42 pm

    Love the SJWs who went as far to guilt this poor guy into supporting their “cause” despite the idocity shown each time they state their views — which has included “YOU LOST BRO, YOU LOST BRO” or shouting down the black student who had the audacity to call out this “cause” as misguided and immature.

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