There was another photographer arrested last week when police moved in to break up an Occupy encampment in Miami. But this time, police may have grabbed a tiger by the tail.
The photographer managed to capture his arrest–or most of it–on video. Police allegedly erased the video file, which the photographer says he has since recovered. Not only will it exonerate him, he says, but it gives him the evidence he needs to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for violation of his civil rights.
The photographer happens to be Carlos Miller, a tireless critic of police harassment of photographers and the voice behind the Photography Is Not a Crime blog. At the time of his arrest last week, he was shooting for MiamiBeach411.com, a local news and travel site where he works as a senior editor.
The video of his arrest is now on his blog. It shows police leaving the scene after clearing the Occupy encampment. Several police walk by Miller, taking little notice of him. But when he begins walking down a sidewalk, a female officer stops him.
“They singled me out from a horde of other photographers,” he says. “I was doing nothing [wrong].”
The officer summoned others to arrest Miller, allegedly for refusing the order police issued to protestors to disperse. Miller says police began “ripping” at his cameras and backpack to remove them, he says. “The woman [officer] said, ‘We don’t want to have to hurt you,'” says Miller. “I said, “I’m not resisting, do what you need to do.”
He’s been charged with resisting arrest.
Miller’s exchange with the police is mostly audible on the video. Miller explains on his Web site how he recovered the video file. And now he’s vowing to to use it against the police in federal court.
“I could file a claim for wrongful arrest,” he says, “but the deletion of my footage takes it to another level.”
NPPA attorney Mickey Osterreicher, who wrote a letter to the Miami-Dade Police Department protesting Miller’s arrest last week, believes Miller has grounds to sue the police for violation of his rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom from unlawful search and seizure–providing Miller isn’t convicted on any charges related to the arrest.
Miller says others, including a police photographer, also captured his arrest on video. “We submitted a request for the footage he was shooting, but we don’t have a response yet,” he says.
It is Miller’s third arrest while photographing in public. The first time, he was convicted of resisting arrest, but managed to get that conviction overturned on appeal. The second time, the charges against him were dropped because the arresting office did not show up at his court hearing to testify.
Meanwhile, Miller is pursuing a civil claim against a private security company that is under contract to guard the Miami-Dade Metrorail. Miller says security guards barred him illegally from photographing a metro station.
“I am a rabble rouser. I won’t deny that,” says Miller, acknowledging that he has had more run-ins with the law than most photographers. “I know I can be controversial, but my point is not to draw attention to myself. It is to raise awareness, and get changes.
“I want to educate cops, and educate photographers, and create a dialogue. We’re talking about people with cameras, not waving guns. I want to get rid of stigma of taking pictures in public. We are not terrorists.”
Miller says his efforts to bring attention to the unlawful arrests of photographers are having an effect. “We’re making progress, but there’s still a long way to go.”
Osterreicher is less sure about the progress. “As far as I’m concerned, [the problem] is increasing,” he says. “Since 9/11, the war on terrorism has somehow morphed into the war on photography.” The numerous arrests of photographers at various Occupy movement encampments around the country in recent months show how much work remains to be done to educate police about the law, he says.
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