Does The NYPD Really Think That Shooting Photos/Videos Of Protests Is 'Disorderly Conduct?'

from the censorship-at-its-finest dept

The mess in NYC with the way the NYPD are handling the whole “Occupy Wall Street” situation continues. We’ve already covered the story of the police falsely claiming that video evidence of an incident where an officer (Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna) pepper sprayed women did not show the full story. In those posts, we highlighted the importance of photographic and video evidence from people around the incident, and noted how important the right to film police is for a functioning democracy. Now there’s increasing evidence that the NYPD targeted people reporting on, videotaping or filming the police, in making a bunch of arrests.

Reporter John Farley, working for WNET MetroFocus — which is part of New York’s PBS station — wrote the story after being arrested himself, on “disorderly conduct” charges. What was his disorderly conduct? Apparently it was attempting to interview some of those women who were pepper sprayed by Bologna. He properly identified himself to the police as a reporter, but they did not care. He was still arrested and spent nine hours in custody. While some of the others in custody with him were, in fact, protestors, some were merely bystanders trying to record what was going on. He notes two such stories. The first is of a guy who was working at a cafe right by the pepper spray incident:

The arrest of my cell mate, Sam Queary, 24, adds another dimension to the issue: that of the inadvertent, spontaneous citizen journalist. Queary happened to be at work at Grey Dog Cafe near Union Square when the protesters marched by.

?I heard a commotion and went outside to find cops macing women and arresting people and hitting people with nightsticks, so I started taking pictures,? said Queary. ?I followed a young, black male as he was being accosted by five cops. As I tried to take a picture I was pushed away. I asked why I was pushed away and then the next thing you know I was being judo flipped.?

The second involved a woman who just pulled out her camera phone as events were unfolding in front of her, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the protest:

I also met Rosa A., 33, in the police van while we were being transported to the 1st Precinct for processing. She had been shopping at the Barnes and Noble on Union Square when she saw the protesters outside. As many New Yorkers do when they see something unusual, she snapped a picture. And she was arrested.

?I?ve never been arrested,? said Rosa A., in visible pain from the plastic handcuffs. ?I was just there looking at magazines.? She laughed, lightening the mood in the police van. Even our arresting officer, in the van with us, chuckled.

While an NYPD spokesperson has been telling the press that police did not target those with cameras, it’s hard to understand any other reason for those three people being arrested and charged. Besides, given the fact that NYPD spokespeople talking about this incident have already had their credibility destroyed by the video evidence, it’s tough to take those claims seriously. Even if the police weren’t officially targeting people with cameras, as Farley noted, they didn’t seem to make any attempt to distinguish protesters from bystanders or press:

I don?t know precisely why I was arrested, though I have been charged with disorderly conduct. But what I realized is that in a sudden burst of urban chaos, how can the police distinguish between passersby and protesters who may be committing civil disobedience or any other type of punishable offense? Or between citizen journalists and professional journalists?

In the past, we’ve seen police use “disorderly conduct” charges against those who film them. It’s a nice catch-all that police can use to arrest almost anyone. Perhaps we should be looking to fix the law that allows arrests on “disorderly conduct” when such a law seems to be regularly abused by police to target those who are respecting the law, but doing things the police just don’t like?

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Comments on “Does The NYPD Really Think That Shooting Photos/Videos Of Protests Is 'Disorderly Conduct?'”

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60 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Well, actually, it could be considered disorderly conduct if the person shooting the video is “part of the protestors” and refuses to move into the “controlled” area.

Running around on the street and blocking traffic just to shoot a video could be considered disorderly conduct.

Obstructing the officer, getting in the way, or causing the officer to have to stop and deal with your blocking traffic or inciting others could be considered disorderly conduct.

There are plenty of example. Mike, you just have no imagination. Remember, all of this stuff happens in the real world, not in a classroom exercise or as some theoretical challenge.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“There are plenty of example. Mike, you just have no imagination.”

Whereas you apparently have far too much imagination. Serious question: are you fucking kidding me? They were arrested for snapping pictures. The most egregious aspect of this story is both the PBS dude identifying himself and still geting canned, followed by the innocent woman who snapped a photo and then got tossed in the van only to have the arresting officer chuckle at the fact that SHOULDN’T OF FUCKING BEEN THERE!!!

Holy shit, I’m going to start completely losing control here. The transparency in all this is so clear, it’s amazing, yet we still get comments like these. The Mayor told them he wants the protests busted and wanted as little video running on the news as possible. The police are making shit up to comply with this order. This is so abundantly clear, it might as well be from one of those Ghostbusters movies where the NYC Mayor does nearly the same thing.

Let me make this clear: With regards to protecting the people in this country, the press have become more important than the police. Think about the ridiculousness of that for a moment, and you’ll realize how much trouble we’re all in….

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

With regards to protecting the people in this country, the press have become more important than the police. Think about the ridiculousness of that for a moment, and you’ll realize how much trouble we’re all in….

This isn’t too surprising to me, nor do I think the founding fathers would think this at all a bad thing. To the contrary, I think many of the founding fathers thought that was the way it was supposed to be. Combine these two things:

1) Freedom of speech and of the press is enshrined in the Bill of Rights, right next to the right to bear arms, both of which were meant to keep the government afraid of the people. Limiting what the government can search of yours is only one amendment down, and the right not to incriminate yourself is just another right down from that.

2) Benjamin Franklin’s quote about liberty and security, in which he says that if you’re willing to give up a little bit of the freedom of press, you’ll not only be less secure, but you’ll also have less freedoms.

Given those two, I believe the founding fathers absolutely meant for the press to be what protected us. Keep in mind also, that in their day, they had no conception of some professional journalists being the press. To them, the press was simply the ability to publish. The first amendment protects freedom of speech and the press as two different ways for all citizens to express their ideas, not as speech rights given to everybody and some separate rights given to journalists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Helmet, please. You notice there is video and pictures of the police, and none of the actions of these other people?

We could have CCTV… oh wait, your precious first amendment says we really shouldn’t. So the public can record the cops, but hide their own bad acts because it wouldn’t be constitutional. NICE!

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“We could have CCTV… oh wait, your precious first amendment says we really shouldn’t. So the public can record the cops, but hide their own bad acts because it wouldn’t be constitutional. NICE!”

I’m calling you out on this, that statement is 100% baseless and an outright lie:

http://www.nyclu.org/pdfs/surveillance_cams_report_121306.pdf

NEIGHBORHOOD CAMERA COUNTS, 1998 AND 2005
1998 2005
District 1* (Financial District, Tribeca) 446 1306
District 2 (Greenwich Village, SoHo) 142 2227
District 3 (Lower East Side, Chinatown) 181 643
Central Harlem N/A 292
TOTAL 769 4468

Would you like to try again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Well, actually, it could be considered disorderly conduct if the person shooting the video is “part of the protestors” and refuses to move into the “controlled” area.

Running around on the street and blocking traffic just to shoot a video could be considered disorderly conduct.

Obstructing the officer, getting in the way, or causing the officer to have to stop and deal with your blocking traffic or inciting others could be considered disorderly conduct.”

Yes. We could sit here and think on loads of things that could get someone arrested for disorderly conduct. But we are trying to analyse a few specific instances here.

“There are plenty of example. Mike, you just have no imagination.”

Yes, let’s try analysing the ones that are in front of us, shall we?

“Remember, all of this stuff happens in the real world, not in a classroom exercise or as some theoretical challenge.”

Of course it isn’t a theoretical exercise. Why are you trying to turn it into one then?

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Re: Let's go with this line of reasoning...

Assuming that our AC is correct and that there are all of those instances of “disorderly conduct”…

Isn’t it “dereliction of duty” for an officer to stop to arrest someone for a misdemeanor while more serious crimes or felonies are in progress in front of them?

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Rights

> Freedom of assembly is a right not a priviledge.
> Close the streets to traffic is the crowd is so large that
> it’s a problem.

Um, no.

People’s right to assemble does not mean they have the right paralyze traffic in a city, as if the rights of the other 3 million people going about their lives don’t matter.

And when you paralyze traffic, you also paralyze the ability of emergency vehicles (ambulances, fire trucks, etc.) to respond to incidents where loss of life is a potentiality.

Your right to assemble doesn’t trump my right to not have my house burn down or my neighbor’s right to get to a hospital if he has a heart attack.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Rights

What’s the point of ‘right to assemble’ if it can be tossed for ‘blocking traffic’? Right to assemble absolutely involves impeding traffic, that’s a time-honoured method going back centuries.

Now, in a specific case where people can be proven to have caused actual harm by impeding emergency response vehicles, you can deal with them individually…

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Rights

> What’s the point of ‘right to assemble’ if it can be tossed
> for ‘blocking traffic’?

If you think the right to assemble means nothing if you can’t put people’s lives in danger by creating situation where police and fire can’t respond, then I guess you’ll have to resign yourself to the fact that your right to assemble means nothing, because the rest of us don’t much feel like having our access to emergency services cut off because you feel like whining about global warming or amnesty for illegals or whatever else has put a burr in your panties this week.

> Right to assemble absolutely involves impeding traffic,
> that’s a time-honoured method going back centuries.

The Supreme Court disagrees with you.

> Now, in a specific case where people can be proven to have
> caused actual harm by impeding emergency response vehicles,
> you can deal with them individually

Or the city can make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place. Which option do you think the family of the guy who died of a heart attack because the ambulance couldn’t get to him would prefer?

Jeremy (profile) says:

Just what is disorderly conduct?

So I looked on wikipedia and it says disorderly conduct is

A typical definition of disorderly conduct defines the offense in these ways:
A person who recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally:
(1) engages in fighting or in tumultuous conduct;
(2) makes unreasonable noise and continues to do so after being asked to stop; or
(3) disrupts a lawful assembly of persons;

So are the cops actually guilty of disorderly conduct for arresting these people? It would seem to me they are disrupting a lawful assembly of persons.

Anonymous Coward says:

State sponsered oppression of the people!

It seems that the politicians and NYPD somehow missed the lessons of “the Arab summer”. If their goal is a full blown revolt they are right on target. I have never been a militant 2nd amendment or NRA proponent but this just may be my tipping point. I never thought I would condone the populace arming themselves for the purpose of self defense from police, but now it seems imperative in NYC. If the federal government doesn’t reign in local police abuses we are headed for a full scale revolt by the masses and it won’t be pretty or limited to local authorities. Is that the goal?

Laura van Straaten says:

extensive quotes used w/o permission/linkback

Hi Mike, Thanks for including John Farley of MetroFocus in your coverage of Occupy Wall Street. We are genuinely grateful to see this important issue get attention.

That being said, we would appreciate your making clear to your readers that the four paragraphs of reporting you pulled are from his original work as an editor on our staff: e.g. ‘As John Farley writes in his first person account on MetroFocus’ with a link to (www.thirteen.org/metrofocus/news/2011/09/observations-of-a-jailed-journalist/). Please also link to our home page (www.thirteen.org/metrofocus) with the first mention of MetroFocus.

Feel free to delete this comment as you wish and to reach out to me by email; my contact info is in the email I sent also to your site’s ‘Contact Us’/Media Relations a little while ago but to which no one has thus far replied. I also reached out via LinkedIn.

Thanks so much,
Laura van Straaten
Editor-in-Chief / Executive Producer
MetroFocus

Brandt Hardin (user link) says:

Rise Against

The movement is gaining momentum after a week and a half and Occupy movements are popping up all over the country! Stand up together and use your voice to give to those without. Tax the rich and feed the poor- you are the 99%! See my Occupy Wall Street painting and Anonymous homage on my artist?s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/09/occupywallstreet.html where you can also see videos of the protests and police brutality as well as get other sources for coverage of the movement.

The Devil's Coachman (profile) says:

Unfortunately, looks like it's getting to be time for the American Spring

There’s always a lot of ugliness associated with these types events, however necessary, but just where is the line to be drawn? Fortunately for me, I’m old, with a likely terminal medical condition, and thus have not got much to lose, except my children’s’ futures. I would think the time will probably come where the defense of our progeny’s future is the only important matter in the world. Sad, lame, and enraging, all at the same time. The takeover of this country by the Banksters and their parasitic cronies, and their apologists is nearly complete, but it could still be interrupted, if not stopped completely. I’m afraid that the line I mentioned is “just over there”, and the time will be soon.

jsf (profile) says:

Of Course

Yes, many police officers, but not all or even a majority, think that think that taking photos, or videos, or reporting on things is disorderly conduct. This is because in their mind anything you are doing that they don’t wnat you doing is disorderly conduct and/or obstruction of justice. It doesn’t matter what the courts have said or what your rights actually are.

None of the above means that they are right however.

We also need to remember that not even a majority of police officers believe the above or support the kinds of actions that have happened. It really only takes a few bad officers in the right positions to make for really bad situations.

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