It was only six months ago that Amanda Berg stood in front of a federal ATF building in Texas with a sign that read “Fuck the ATF” as part of a First Amendment audit to determine if they would respect her right to protest on a public sidewalk.
A security guard came out and told her she was scaring people inside but Berg, who runs the YouTube channel, Pink Camera Magic, said there was nothing to fear because she had no plans on stepping on the property.
A Leon Valley police officer responded and told her she had every right to protest with her sign as long as she remained on the sidewalk which was surprising because that same department has had a long-running issue with some First Amendment auditors who have a pending lawsuit against the agency.
Fast forward to December and Berg decided to hold up a sign that read “Fuck Joe and the Leon Valley police” in front of the Leon Valley Police Department.
Berg, who is not part of the pending lawsuit, said her beef with the department was over a recent news story about Leon Valley Police Chief Joe Salvaggio threatening to shut down a storage facility for allowing bands to rehearse there, even though nobody was complaining.
“I was not too happy about that so I said I’m going to protest how I felt,” she said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime, explaining the “Fuck Joe” part of her sign was a specific reference to Chief Salvaggio.
Given her last experience with the ATF sign, she was hoping they would respect her rights just as the last officer did.
But no such luck.
The cops ended up arresting her and confiscating her sign “as evidence” before placing it in the garbage can which should be tampering with evidence as long as we’re using cop logic here.
“It’s not content neutral,” she said. “They were fine with a sign that said ‘Fuck the ATF’ but not with a sign that said ‘Fuck the Police.'”
The cops kept her in handcuffs for almost an hour before releasing her with a disorderly conduct summons.
But unless they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt her actions created an “immediate breach of the peace,” which Texas case law defines as “an act that disturbs or threatens to disturb the tranquility enjoyed by the citizens,” the charge is not going to stick.
The battle against the Leon Valley Police Department began in May 2018 when a First Amendment auditor who goes by Mexican Padilla entered the police station with his camera recording. His video, posted below, shows a female employee giving him permission to enter an area through double doors. But once inside, he was confronted by Chief Salvaggio who accused him of entering a “restricted area.”
Padilla began cursing him out in Spanish and the chief tackled and arrested him.
His video went viral attracting other First Amendment auditors and activists from around Texas and other states to Leon Valley where they participated in three protests in June resulting in multiple arrests and camera seizures.
At one point, they were arrested for desecrating the Thin Blue Line flag in front of the police department.
Last month, Mexican Padilla whose real name is Jesus Padilla pleaded guilty to several charges related to his altercation with the chief.
According to News 4 SA:
A member of the “First Amendment Auditors” pleaded guilty Monday to criminal charges for harassing and intimidating police officers in Leon Valley on three different occasions.
The city of Leon Valley said Jesus Padilla, known as “Mexican Padilla” on YouTube, pleaded guilty to six criminal charges, including criminal trespass, resisting arrest, interference with the duties of a public servant and retaliation on a police officer. Padilla has already spent seven months in jail, but he will spend two years on supervised probation. He is not allowed to return to Leon Valley facilities and he can’t harass city officials in the future according to a release.
A release said city officials were “inundated” by local and nationwide group calling themselves the “First Amendment Auditors” intending to harass, intimidate and disrupt government operations.
“It brings us no joy to confirm the conviction of Mr. Padilla,” said Leon Valley Police Chief Joe Salvaggio. “His life, and his family’s life will forever be impacted by his ill-fated decision to follow others lead and training on interacting with public officials. Our hope is others will see these convictions and reconsider their criminal behavior. The City of Leon Valley would like to thank the Bexar County District Attorney’s office for their hard work and persistence in bringing those violating the law to justice. We look forward to working closely with them on future upcoming trials of the remaining defendants of this criminal organization.”
Knowing how cops communicate in doublespeak, we can be assured Salvaggio and his officers were extremely joyous over the conviction.
But Padilla as you can see in the first two videos below is much more confrontational than other auditors which made it easy for police to play the victim. Last year we reported he was arrested five times in one month.
It will be much harder to convict Berg who is assertive but not nearly as confrontational as Padilla. She already has a lawyer, Solomon Radner, who is representing the other activists in their lawsuit which can be read here.
The third video below was recorded last month and shows Leon Valley police officers in full Constitutional ignorance threatening to arrest citizens for recording inside the police department while allowing corporate media reporters to continue recording.