(Granthshala 9) – A popular YouTube influencer who records video confrontations with public officials was charged on Tuesday with assaulting a female cop who was assisting during a mental health call.
20-year-old Anthony Michael Wickles, known as the Minnesota Guardian on YouTube, arrived at a police scene on Summit Avenue in St. Paul on Sunday night and offered a woman a ride home. He allegedly solicited sex and exposed himself, eventually attacking her with a Taser stun gun.
A spokesman for St. Paul Police said officers with their mental health unit were called to Summit Avenue on reports of a possible mental health problem that involved a woman knocking on the door of an apartment building. He was removed from the scene and later contacted by Vikless, who was pursuing police.
According to the criminal charges, he told the woman that his name was “Tony” and that he was trained in de-escalation skills. The woman saw a police scanner and tactical gear in her Crown Victoria, a vehicle commonly used by police.
She says he offered her a ride home and then started having sex in the car. She said he offered $50 to $100 if she had oral sex. He said he started masturbating while he was driving and grabbed her left breast on his shirt and said, “You know you want me.”
She says that he declined her sexual offer and he started driving more aggressively. Eventually, he got off the freeway and ran into a White Bear Lake neighborhood he was unfamiliar with. She says he pushed her out of the car, and then used a Taser to hit her in the back. He said he got out of the car and tried unsuccessfully to stun her again with the butt-end of the Taser.
When White Bear police arrived, the woman’s shirt had a taser prong and two blood stains on her shirt. She told police that he fled, but was able to obtain a license plate that was registered to Anthony Wickles.
Police arrested Wickles from his St. Paul home on Monday night. On Tuesday, Ramsey County Attorney charged Wickles with second-degree assault and 5th-degree criminal sexual conduct. Bail was set at $60,000.
Over the past three years, Wickles has grown to nearly 14,000 subscribers on YouTube, judging by his so-called “First Amendment audit,” which usually involves him walking into public buildings and brutally confronting officials.
He also appears at police crime scenes to harass police officers and witnesses. St. Paul Police arrested him for disorderly conduct, but the charges never lasted.
Other times he enters private businesses and begins interviewing workers and customers. They have made inroads into several businesses including Danneckers Market and Mooki’s Italian in St. Paul.
“Everyone is welcome until it gets weird,” Mookie owner Tim Niver told Granthshala 9 in February 2020.
Nivar said that Wickles went to their restaurant and was “a little lewd. His language was kind of foul.”
In an interview with Granthshala 9 in February 2020, Wickles defended his “First Amendment audits”.
“Ultimately, I am trying to inform the public about their rights as a US citizen,” Wickles said. “The whole point is to exercise your rights. You never know what’s going to happen. But you have to be prepared. Maybe someone doesn’t like you filming them, yet all these different cameras are filming them Why are they upset with me?”
After Wickless repeatedly visited Ramsey County public buildings in 2019, the county provided guidance to employees facing “citizen journalists” to be polite and patient, but to report any threatening behavior .
“If there’s a lesson to be learned, I’d say we learned it the first time,” said Ramsey County spokesman John Sickwelland. “This is a movie that doesn’t need a sequel.”
But there are plenty of sequels on the Minnesota Guardian YouTube page with over 200 videos. Those videos have totaled over 2.1 million views.
Along with so-called associates, he has questioned customers at the Department of Motor Vehicles and the US Post Office. He walked into Bloomington City Hall wearing a flak jacket.
He faced worshipers outside St. Paul’s Mosque wearing a red “Make America Great” hat. He also created a stir in the lobby of the Criminal Apprehension Bureau.
“There’s no expectation of privacy in a public setting; you can’t expect privacy in a public place,” Wickles said.
Asked if he considers himself a part of the press, he said, “I do. We are all press.”
Jane Kirtley, a journalism professor at the University of Minnesota, told Granthshala 9 last year that she had a point.
“To some extent, it does not matter whether he is a journalist or not, he will have equal rights and responsibilities,” Kirtley said.
The First Amendment does not define the press, and neither does the US Supreme Court.
Kirtley sees the Minnesota Guardian as a kind of ‘cautious journalism’.
And Wickles is hardly alone. Citizen journalists across the county are facing police, politicians and mainstream media alike.
And people forget that there is no so called right to privacy in a public place.
“It’s fascinating, isn’t it? In an age where we have very limited expectations of privacy, people tend to panic if they are recorded or photographed in a public place. It’s a paradox,” Kirtley said. .
A year and a half ago, Wickles told Granthshala 9 that he wanted to keep pushing the boundaries.
“Don’t worry about me,” he said. “I’m not your child.”