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Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund support MuckRock’s mission of improving access to public records

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The Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund have announced $440,000 in support of MuckRock’s mission of making government more transparent and our democracy more informed.

New funding positions MuckRock for long-term growth, brings founders on full time

Written by Michael Morisy
Edited by JPat Brown

We are excited and humbled to share that the Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund have announced $440,000 in support of MuckRock’s mission of making government more transparent and our democracy more informed.

Journalists, researchers, and ordinary citizens across the United States already use our public records platform to better understand government operations, and this support helps us expand that work in new ways while building an organization that will continue to inform and engage the public on issues of government transparency for a long time to come. We’ve already begun that work by launching our first user survey, and we are working hard to help newsrooms, activists, and other groups tackle ambitious projects that have never been possible before.

The support also allows cofounder Mitchell Kotler and myself to join MuckRock full time, and we’re excited to push forward with the experiment in transparency we started seven and a half years ago.

The full announcement is below, and we’ll have more news about what we’re working on in the weeks and months to come. You can find more information on our financials here.

MuckRock, a platform that helps journalists and others request, analyze and share public records, will receive $240,000 in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and $200,000 from the Democracy Fund to expand its subscriber base, introduce new training opportunities, and develop a plan to support Freedom of Information Act requests into the future.

“Freedom of information is a cornerstone of a strong democracy and prerequisite for quality journalism. By ensuring citizens are able to access public information easily, MuckRock promotes these important goals, while helping to make investigative and accountability reporting possible,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism.

Over the last four years, the power of Freedom of Information laws as a transparency tool has grown weaker. “Forecasting Freedom of Information,” a report by the University of Arizona’s David Cuillier supported by Knight, found that experts are seeing even more unnecessary delays and denials of records requests.

“Through the MuckRock platform, more journalists, newsrooms, and individuals have gained access to the resources they need to file successful FOIA requests,” said Tom Glaisyer, director of the Public Square program at Democracy Fund. “This will in turn increase the ability of journalists to report accurately, and for the American people to hold their institutions accountable.”

MuckRock was created in 2010 with the goal making Freedom of Information Act requests simple and affordable. Since 2016, the platform has been used to file more than 38,000 requests. It has been used by thousands of journalists in high-profile stories focused on topics from unveiling hidden Cold War history to tracing military gear given to local police.

With the new funding, MuckRock will develop a stronger plan for sustainability, working to expand revenue and its subscriber base. The organization will increase training opportunities to introduce journalists to the platform and build an awareness campaign to encourage use of the service by wide audiences including journalists, academics, researchers, and citizens. It will develop public records projects with news outlets to encourage investigative and accountability journalism in digital native newsrooms and build a network interested in developing more advanced digital freedom of information tools.

“When we started, we knew that the Freedom of Information Act and public records were critical to an informed democracy, but we underestimated just how important these tools were at all levels,” said Michael Morisy, MuckRock founder and executive director. “We’ve been blown away by the community that has built up around the site, and we’re excited to use this funding to continue to expand our work.”

Support for MuckRock is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to champion the First Amendment in the digital age. Knight has made many investments in this area, including the Knight First Amendment Institute, a partnership with Columbia University that aims to shape and clarify laws on privacy, information access, libel and press freedom in the digital age.

About MuckRock

MuckRock is a non-profit, collaborative news site that brings together journalists, researchers, activists, and regular citizens to request, analyze, and share government documents, making politics more transparent and democracies more informed.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.KnightFoundation.org.

About Democracy Fund:

The Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation established by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to help ensure that our political system can withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Since 2011, Democracy Fund has invested more than $60 million in support of effective governance, modern elections, and a vibrant public square. For more, visit democracyfund.org.

Source: Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund support MuckRock’s mission of improving access to public records

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WATCH: Copwatch | Gang Unit Vehicle Stop Foot Bail | Tossed Gun | Man Tasered

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San Diego Copwatch April 10, 2018

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POLICE claim Man said ‘shoot me’ twice before he was shot to death by police, Audio Experts Heard Different

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Las Vegas Metro police shot and killed a 22-year-old man early Friday morning after he reached for a weapon and defied commands repeatedly, police said.

 

Officers Francisco Rivera, 28, and Padilla Mills, 23, were involved in the shooting in the 200 block of Madge Lane, near Charleston Boulevard and Sloan Lane.

Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Monday said officers were on their way to another call when they spotted Junior David Lopez driving recklessly with two women in a blue Chrysler 300.

“Hey, what are you doing? Stay in the car man,” one of the officers yelled. “Stay in the ****ing car! Don’t move! Do not ****ing move!”

When officers stopped the vehicle, Lopez got out of the vehicle with a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380 firearm in his hand then tossed it on the ground, police said.

Zimmerman said Lopez defied officers’ commands to put his hands up and step away from the weapon. Instead Lopez grabbed the firearm and raised it, he said.

“Hey, get away from the gun!” officers yelled. “Do not move! Don’t reach for the gun, man. Do not reach the gun.”

Officers believe the body camera footage shows Lopez twice saying the words “shoot me.”

“I don’t know what was going through his head, but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t,” Zimmerman said.

Officers Rivera and Mills both fired their weapons. Lopez fell to the ground and rolled over. Police say he reached for the guns once more. Officer Mills fired one more round, striking Lopez.

“We’re going to need medical for the subject,” one of the officers said, over his radio. “He’s reaching. Don’t reach for it! … His 4-13 is about one foot from his left hand. Don’t!”

Lopez was taken to Sunrise Hospital where he later died at 5:15 a.m.

The two women in the car were not injured. One was Lopez’ girlfriend and the owner of the vehicle. The other was a friend.

Both women on Monday night.

“I remember when we got pulled over they told us to get the **** out of the car, for him to get the **** out of the car. Why don’t I hear that in the video?” said Lopez’s girlfriend, Amber. “He was the best thing in my life… He said, ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.’ You can’t hear the don’t, but you can hear him. ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.'”

Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman said 22-year-old Junior Lopez told officers to shoot him, twice.

“I don’t know what was going through his head but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t.”

Lopez’s girlfriend said he was yelling, “Don’t shoot me!”

Lopez’s girlfriend also says officers told him to get out of the car… before they yelled at him to get back in the car. She argues that the first portion was conveniently cut out of the video released today.

“Everything they said is not true,” said Jorge Luis Martinez, Lopez’s father. “The video is not complete. ”

Lopez had one prior charge for false statement to a police officer in North Las Vegas in 2016

Both officers have been employed with Metro since May 2016. They are both assigned to the Community Policing Division Northeast Area Command. They were both placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

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Freedom of Speech Everywhere except a Courthouse so Says the US Attorney General

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How an anti-illegal immigration YouTuber turned a $280 fine into a federal criminal trial

How an anti-illegal immigration YouTuber turned a $280 fine into a federal criminal trial

Gary Gileno

Gary Gileno is shown outside the federal courthouse on Friday before his trial. Gileno was fighting a $280 citation for failing to comply with orders while trying to bring a video camera into a L.A. County Sheriff oversight meeting in 2017. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

 

It began as a $280 citation for using a video camera in a courthouse.

But to Gary Gileno, at stake was much more than the couple hundred bucks he was told to pay.

An attorney for the anti-illegal immigration activist and prolific YouTuber told a judge Friday that the four-hour trial over the fine was really about preventing government abuse of power, protecting the rights of journalists and ensuring that citizens can hold public officials accountable.

“If he is convicted … it’ll chill speech, it’ll chill journalism, it’ll say the federal government has a superpower to do whatever it wants,” attorney William Becker said. “This is unprecedented. This is what we expect to see in a police state.”

A federal prosecutor dismissed the rhetoric, arguing the Class C misdemeanor charge was simply about Gileno’s refusal to follow a security officer’s orders.

The unusual legal battle came after Gileno, 32, tried to bring a video camera into a meeting of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission last year. California law specifically allows the public to use recording devices at such meetings, but the commission’s meeting in August was held at a federal appellate court building where filming is prohibited.

Someone just detained at federal courthouse, where public Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission meeting takin place, 4 trying 2 take pic

The commission, a civilian panel set up to monitor the Sheriff’s Department and listen to public concerns about the agency, had been gathering in different locations around the county since it began meeting in January 2017. This was the first time commissioners had met at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals building in Pasadena.

As Gileno entered the courthouse, deputy U.S. marshals told him he had to leave his camera in his car. Gileno insisted he had a right to record the meeting under the First Amendment and the state’s open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, and began filming the officers.

They responded by handcuffing and detaining him for about an hour.

After Gileno was cited, Robert C. Bonner, a former federal judge who chairs the commission, told The Times he wasn’t aware of certain provisions of the state’s open meetings law and relied on the county’s lawyers for legal advice.

Rather than pay the fine, Gileno opted to take his case to trial, facing a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and 30 days in jail if found guilty.

Gileno, who began his YouTube career after showing up at his local council meeting in West Covina, said he has made a living off of his channel in recent years. His copious videos — 3,237 and counting — focus primarily on denouncing illegal immigration and promoting supporters of President Trump. His criminal case may have been a boon for his channel — a recent screed on his own prosecution was viewed more than 10,000 times.

On Friday, two court security officers who clashed with Gileno took the stand and testified that there were signs clearly posted saying photography wasn’t allowed in the courthouse. They said Gileno grew belligerent and disruptive, turning on his camera after being warned several times that it was not allowed.

Testifying in his own defense, Gileno said he was a freelance citizen journalist who has attended and filmed local government meetings and legislative town halls for about five years.

“I believe in the United States of America, you should be able to keep tabs on the government,” he said.

In more than 250 other public meetings he attended, he said, he never had an issue with bringing in his video camera. He said the security officer all of a sudden “exploded” at him, so he turned on his camera “to document what I felt was a violation of my rights at the time.”

Assistant U.S. Atty. Benedetto Lee Balding said Gileno’s disruption of security officers working at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was no small matter. It was Gileno who escalated the encounter by refusing to go along with the officers’ orders, he said.

“He decided unilaterally he didn’t have to follow the rules,” the prosecutor said.

Becker, who primarily represents conservatives and Christians in free-speech cases, worked for free on Gileno’s case. He argued that the federal courthouse essentially became a “limited public forum” when it hosted the commission meeting, which Gileno should have been allowed to film under the state law.

Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth said she could understand why Gileno was angry and frustrated given his past experience filming the meetings, but she said that didn’t excuse his failure to follow orders. Security at the appellate courthouse, where justices could be filmed without their knowledge, was a serious concern, the judge said.

“Even if these seem arbitrary or don’t make any sense to Mr. Gileno or anybody else, clearly they serve this very important purpose,” Rosenbluth said, finding Gileno guilty.

Acknowledging that a “misunderstanding” had led to the kerfuffle, the prosecutor recommended a sentence of no fine, which would leave Gileno having to pay just $35 in court fees. Rosenbluth said she felt the need for “some consequences” and ordered Gileno to pay a $50 fine, bringing his total penalty to $85 with the fees.

Gileno said he was “outraged” and “astounded.” After the verdict, he turned to nine supporters in the audience, including a man in a red “Make California Great Again” hat, and exclaimed, “I was never read my rights!”

His attorney said they would seriously consider an appeal and possibly a civil lawsuit against the government.

“What the judge just said is if a city council can move to a federal building, they can keep the meeting secret,” Gileno said. “That’s grossly illegal.”

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