WNYT.com

Free speech confrontation at Airport goes viral

Posted at: 11/28/2012 6:22 PM
Updated at: 11/28/2012 6:34 PM
By: Beth Wurtnann

COLONIE - The YouTube video begins as a young woman walks into the airport armed with flyers.

"So hey everyone this is Ashley Jessica I'm here at Albany International Airport," she told the camera, operated by her associate, Jason Bermas, an independent filmmaker.

The young woman stood outside the security checkpoint at the airport telling the camera that she's there to hand out flyers to travelers, reminding them of their right to opt out of getting the body scan, which she claims carries health risks.

"Okay. First of all, turn this off. Right away," said Doug Myers, the airport spokesman.

Myers told the crew to stop videotaping and to go downstairs, which they agree to do. Then he confronted them again.

"Do you have a million dollars insurance policy? You're violating the Airport Authority guidelines," he said, telling the activists that they were breaking airport rules. 

As tension built, Sheriff's deputy Stan Lenic stepped in, separating the two parties. Then he laid down the law.

"Obviously this is your constitutional right, okay? As far as you're concerned, you're not breaking any laws. That's what we want to get across to you guys," Lenic said.

Myers objected, ordering Airport employees to allow only ticketed passengers upstairs and accusing them of blocking the elevator. But once again, Deputy Lenic defended their first amendment rights.

The activists continued their mission. The video was later posted to YouTube, and went viral, getting nearly 40,000 views. The Sheriff's Office also got dozens of calls and emails from across the nation.

Not the kind of attention Deputy Lenic, was used to.

"That's a little overwhelming. I mean, I was doing my job I felt I was doing the right thing protecting people's First Amendment rights," Lenictold NewsChannel 13.

Albany International Airport's CEO John O'Donnell issued a statement, defending the authority's policies.

"Filing a simple form and providing advance notice of their arrival are all that is required....We would welcome them back to the airport to distribute their information."

Doug Myers had no comment.