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A video circulating online shows a police officer confronting protesters and then playing a Taylor Swift song from his phone in an attempt to prevent them sharing the clip online.
As Gizmodo reports, protesters gathered outside the Alameda Courthouse in Oakland, California on Tuesday for the pre-trial hearing of a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed Black man in Walmart last year. Officer Jason Fletcher was charged with manslaughter after he fatally shot Steven Taylor, and justice advocates congregated around the courthouse.
James Burch, policy director for the Anti-Police Terror Project, can be seen in a video from the gathering asking an officer why protesters are being told they can’t hold up banners outside the courthouse. The officer in question, Sheriff’s Deputy David Shelby, looks more visibly frustrated as the conversation continues, and eventually pulls out his phone to play Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.”
“You can record all you want,” he says directly into the camera. “I just know it can’t be posted on YouTube.”
This is a tactic some police officers have been known to use in recent years, playing copyrighted material in an effort to get such clips immediately pulled by YouTube and other sites’ copyright-flagging systems. Explaining the situation further, Burch said the group filmed the officers after they were asked to move their “Justice for Steven Taylor” banners.
“Yes, copyright law needs reform. AND this is a MASSIVE waste of public resources," the Anti Police-Terror Project wrote in a tweet. "At a time when the Oakland Police Chief is spreading misinformation, with support from Mayor Libby Schaaf and Council Member Loren Taylor, about 911 response times and fear-mongering about a decrease in public safety following the reallocation of $18.4m from the police budget to alternative police-free services, it’s remarkable to see two highly paid sergeants & two deputies spend time policing family members of a man shot by police outside a hearing."
When the video of the confrontation started to circulate on social media, some Taylor Swift fans expressed their interest in hearing what the musician has to say about the tactic. While the Folklore artist hasn’t typically been known for making political statements, it’s worth pointing out that her approach to such topics changed dramatically last year when she denounced Donald Trump.
Taylor has yet to respond to the video.