Yes, Virginia, There is an Antivax Conspiracy

Mentioned by the Bad Astronomer:

Jamie Bernstein was kicked out of the Autism One conference in Austin, Texas because, well, the Antivaxers are a tad nuts.

A police officer walked up to Ken and me and said, “Are you aware that you have been asked to leave?” We both replied that no one had previously mentioned kicking us out, but that we would cooperate and go if they wanted us to. From our point of view, it seemed like Teri must have told the police that she had asked us to leave and we refused. This never happened, though.

At this point, Teri said she wanted my camera film… which is kind of a strange thing to ask since this is 2011 and most cameras don’t use film anymore. I told her I didn’t have film, but would be happy to delete the pictures I took. The police officer said that would be fine, but Teri would have none of it. With a shaking voice, she snapped “No, I demand the film!” I said (again) I didn’t have any film, it being a digital camera and all, but took my camera out and erased the two pictures that were on there. She seemed unhappy with this result, but was unable to overturn the police decision.

Read Part One and Part Two

I’ll say that she should not have volunteered to delete the photos. The only authority the security (or the police) had was to ask her to leave. I’m also troubled by her excessive cooperation as illustrated here:

At this point, Teri and a police officer took Ken aside and I was questioned by the remaining Lombard police officers. They took down all my personal information and kept asking me paranoid questions like “Are you a journalist?” “Do you work for a magazine?” and “Who sent you here?” I answered all questions truthfully, though they weren’t happy with the answers. They seemed convinced I was some big-shot reporter for a magazine and kept harping on that point as I continued to deny such a thing. I kept asking the police if I was in trouble or if I’d done something wrong. They told me I wasn’t in trouble but that they just had to take down my information.

She was under no obligation to answer any of those questions and I submit that the police were invading her privacy. If the conference organizers chose to kick her out, for whatever reason, that is of course their privilege, but the police had absolutely no right to interrogate her or her companion.

By all means, leave quietly and with good cheer if you are asked to leave by a conference organizer, but do not surrender your rights while doing so!

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