MOORHEAD — The Moorhead Police Department disabled its Facebook page on Wednesday, May 12, after a self-described First Amendment YouTuber posted his interaction with officers at a U.S. post office.
People from around the country flooded the Moorhead Police Department’s office with "derogatory, aggressive and angry" calls, Capt. Deric Swenson said. That prompted the law enforcement agency to temporarily disable its Facebook page, which started seeing similar comments related to the video.
The police department brought its Facebook page back online by Thursday morning.
The video titled “Tyrant Cop Gets In My Face” was posted Tuesday by the YouTube channel Amagansett Press. It shows a bearded man, identified by multiple sources as Jason Gutterman, recording himself in front of the Moorhead U.S. post office. The video had almost 90,000 views as of Wednesday afternoon.
Video shows a postal worker coming out onto the sidewalk to tell Gutterman, who did not give his name to law enforcement, that he was making customers uncomfortable. The postal worker asks Gutterman to stop filming the office.
Gutterman continued to film the office before going inside the building to film the scene. Employees tell Gutterman he can’t film them, which he disputed while recording them before going to the counter to buy a stamp.
Citizens have a First Amendment right to walk and film an office from a sidewalk, according to the USPS. They also can go into a building and film in public areas, including on Postal Service grounds and in the lobby area, the USPS said in a statement.
What they can’t do is cause a disturbance, harass customers or disrupt service. They also can’t film content behind the post office counter since it could contain proprietary or private customer information, the Postal Service said.
Police were called to the post office and took Gutterman's statement outside the building. Gutterman then tries to follow an officer as he goes to talk to a witness, but another officer tells Gutterman to stay away.
“Am I being detained?” Gutterman asked, to which the officer said yes.
The officer stood in Gutterman's way to prevent him from walking up to the other officer. Gutterman, who called an officer a tyrant and a clown, claimed the officer tried to impede his ability to walk on the sidewalk.
“This idiot is trying to detain me unlawfully, standing in my face” Gutterman said. “You’re in deep s---, buddy.”
Police did not arrest Gutterman, and he is not facing charges. Gutterman showed viewers an officer’s business card and encouraged them to call the Moorhead Police Department.
The flood of calls was so great that some had to be sent to the Red River Regional Dispatch Center, Swenson said. That impacted the department’s ability to respond to calls from residents, he added.
Police were concerned about being able to respond to situations in Moorhead and wanted to prioritize local residents’ safety, Swenson said.
The Amagansett Press did not return a message from The Forum requesting comment. In the video, Gutterman said he was not trying to cause any trouble, nor did he have ill intent. He said he was trying to practice his First Amendment rights.
The YouTuber also recorded an incident with the Fargo Police Department at Fargo City Hall after city security requested officers to declare Gutterman was trespassing. Gutterman was allowed to continue filming in City Hall without being arrested.
Gutterman, who published that video on Wednesday, said officers were cordial in that incident. Soon after the video went online, commenters visiting the Fargo Police Department Facebook page started posting links to the video.
Fargo Police Chief Dave Zibolski said in a statement the officers acted professionally and exhibited respect.
"The members of the Fargo Police Department strive to provide the highest level of service to the City of Fargo including not only those who live here, but also those who work and visit the city," Zibolski said.