California’s sergeant played a Taylor Swift song to prevent video of him handling protesters from being posted online

Josue Torres
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The deputy about to start playing the song.APTPaction/Twitter

An Alameda County sheriff’s sergeant who took out his phone and began playing a Taylor Swift song during a protest is being investigated for allegedly adopting the technique to prevent a video of him from being uploaded on social media because it included copyrighted music.

According to Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the incident is being investigated after the video was uploaded on YouTube and Twitter by the Anti Police-Terror Project. 

This Thursday, the group protested outside the Alameda County Superior Court René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.

Kelly said that this is obviously a problem, and it’s not an acceptable situation. He mentioned the incident has raised some worries in the community, and it is being currently investigated.

Kelly said that the sergeant engaged in the incident was spoken to and that other deputies would be instructed not to use the technique during pre-shift briefings.

He also noticed that the trick doesn’t work, since the video it’s already on YouTube and has received thousands of views.

The demonstrators were there to support the family of Steven Taylor, who died in hands of San Leandro Police Officer Jason Fletcher in April 2020 while carrying a baseball bat inside a Walmart. 

Protesters gathered on the courthouse’s back steps, grouped with Taylor’s family members, surrounding a speaker broadcasting testimony from the trial.

They had hoisted flags on the walls, but sheriff’s officers ordered them removed.

When they were informed they couldn’t put the banners on the stairs, four deputies arrived, and one of them, identified in the video as Sgt. David Shelby, began fighting with James Burch, the project’s policy director, over the banners. 

Shelby pulls out his mobile phone, touches it a couple of times, puts it in his front pocket, and the Taylor Swift pop song “Blank Space” bursts out.

“Are we having a dance party now?” Burch inquired.

Another demonstrator inquired if Shelby was attempting to drown out the discussion. He says no and then explains why.

In the video, he says, “You can record all you want.” “I just know it can’t be posted on YouTube.

Shelby may have been following in the footsteps of a Beverly Hills police officer who was accused by an activist in February of playing Sublime’s “Santeria” during a conversation in order to prevent the video from being posted on YouTube or Instagram, both of which have policies prohibiting the posting of copyrighted material without permission.

Police-reform activists have slammed the technique, claiming that it is designed to assist cops to escape public responsibility.

Burch said in an interview that the event was perplexing at first, but that the speed with which Taylor Swift’s songs blasted out from Shelby’s front pocket convinced him that the sergeant had planned the approach.

The Anti-Police Terror Project also prepared its response, he added, making sure to catch Shelby on video admitting his failed attempt to keep the whole incident off social media.

He explained that they know public pressure originates accountability in law enforcement. Their strategy was to get a reaction from the court of public opinion.

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