MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A video trending online involves multiple high-ranking city of Myrtle Beach employees kicking a group out of city hall.
“Use them or lose them” is what the group Auditing America says about First Amendment privileges granted by the Constitution.
During an exercise at Myrtle Beach City Hall, group members said not only were their rights taken, but it could cost taxpayers in the future.
During the 31-minute video posted to YouTube just two days ago, the auditors enter city hall with cameras drawn. About six minutes in, the group explains to city manager John Pedersen why they’re there. “We’re here spreading awareness for freedom of the press,” one person is heard on the video saying.
Citing a disturbance, Pedersen ushers the group off the premises, even calling for police. Despite their continued plea of innocence and invoking First Amendment privileges, police arrive, including what appears to be a SWAT team member.
In a statement released Monday, city of Myrtle Beach officials said the group, “appears to be disruptive and argumentative merely for the purpose of filming the confrontation which they created.”
The group, however, disagrees, saying continued First Amendment violations could open up the city to potential lawsuits.
"And I think that department could really use that education. I think that would help tenfold. I think the city manager’s office could use that education because they’re all public officials,” Robert Barnes, a First Amendment Auditor, said. “And I think all of them have to understand at any time they could cost taxpayers money because of violating someone’s rights.”
Group members said they hope more citizens exercise their rights more frequently with the goal of a more transparent government.
Late Monday afternoon, city officials forwarded WMBF News a voicemail left in the public information office where an unidentified person claiming to be with the group identifies himself as media and curses repeatedly, seemingly threatening to sue the city, saying, "'Cause we're on our way. And we don't play games."
The group also told WMBF News it’s planning a follow-up audit in the future.