The NYPD violates my constitutional rights as a photojournalist.

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2011 was great. I had the opportunity to go to different events to take photographs. There are many rallies, parades, marches, festivals in NYC. Some of them have food vendors. Usually they sell food from their original countries. It is always interesting to go and enjoy the food, music, etc. I also like taking pictures of Mother Nature.

12/31/2011 - 1/1/2012. Occupy Wall Street celebrates the New Year at Liberty Plaza. El Movimiento Ocupa Wall Street celebra el nuevo año en la Plaza de la Libertad. Manhattan, Nueva York.

According to TIME magazine, “In 2011, protesters didn’t just voice their complaints; they changed the world.” TIME named “THE PROTESTER” person of the year 2011.
As an Independent photographer/journalist or in one word, photojournalist, I was part of it. The NYPD (New York Police Department) violated my rights, but I will keep taking photographs and reporting about the different events in New York City.

On Saturday, October 1, 2011, I was taking photographs of the Occupy Wall Street Protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge and I was arrested by the police without reading me my rights and what were the charges. The only word they pronounced was, “NEXT”. I was released approximately 12 hours after the arrest. The summons said, “blocking vehicular traffic” and “use of prohibited roadway”.

On Sunday, December 25, 2011, I was taking photos at Liberty Plaza (Zuccotti Park). I saw an officer yelling at a protester and I started taking pictures of them. NYPD officer Kirkland tried to stop me from taking pictures. He said, “don’t take pictures of me” and he put his hand in front of his face. Other people around me told him, I had the right to take pictures of him because he is a public servant.

On Sunday, January 1, 2012, I was taking pictures of OWS protesters. It was around 2:10am. They were walking on the sidewalk. I was in front of them and on the sidewalk, too. An officer came from behind and arrested me. He took me to a wall. 2 other officers came and I asked why I was being arrested. I said, I was a photographer and I was taking pictures. They saw my professional camera, looked at each other and said, they didn’t know. Another officer came and I told him again, I was a photographer. He asked me if I had a media pass. I said, “I am a freelance photographer” (twice). He told the 2 other officers, “put him on the wall” (to handcuff me). Again, they didn’t tell me why I was being arrested and they didn’t read my rights.

There were 6 people and I, on the police van (also known as a paddywagon). One of them was bleeding from his face (apparently, he was thrown to the ground when he was arrested). His hands were so tight, they were getting purple and he was sweating a lot. Two of the arrested people asked the police to help him. The police didn’t do anything. Somebody called 911 to send an ambulance. We didn’t know the exact address, the 911 operator could not send it. He had to wait until the police took us to a room in the 7th precinct.

Do I have to have a media pass to go to a public event and take pictures/videotape police activity, protesters, dancers, musicians, etc.? The answer is NO. ANYBODY CAN go and take pictures and make videos. You don’t need a professional camera. You can do it with your cellphone. The First Amendment does not guarantee the mainstream media (MSM) a constitutional right of special access to information not available to the public generally.
(I am not a lawyer and this should not be taken as legal advice. If in doubt, consult with a qualified lawyer. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and The New York City Liberties Union may be able to help. NLG-NYC Email: nlgnyc@igc.org NLG-NYC Facebook page. and NYCLU email: protest@nyclu.org NYCLU Facebook page ).

Rights of independent, freelance, un-credentialed citizens to function as journalists should be made clear to police leaders and to officers on the street.
The First Circuit Court in the SIMON GLIK case on August 26, 2011 was very clear:
“Moreover, changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.”

At the precinct, a woman (she was not wearing the police uniform) said, “you are a photographer. Why they arrested you?”. I said, “I don’t know”. Police officer Pitre asked me, my address, social security number, if I was a U.S. Citizen, phone number, school, job address, etc. Is it legal for the police to ask ALL those questions? Maybe a lawyer can answer this question. I don’t know.

They never told me why I was arrested. I was released at 9:10am. The “desk appearance ticket” says, “Offense charged: 240-20(5) and 240-20(6)”. According to the NYPD legal guidelines, “Penal Law, 240_20(5), Disorderly Conduct, provides that is unlawful to obstruct vehicular or pedestrian traffic and Penal Law, Section 240_20(6) makes it unlawful for refusing to disperse after being given a lawful order to do so.”

RIGHTS of FILMMAKERS and PHOTOGRAPHERS in NEW YORK CITY:
In August 2008 new rules established by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting (MOFTB) governing filming and photographing in New York City went into effect. They affirm the general right to film or photograph without need for a permit unless the practitioner is attempting to exert exclusive control over an area (though even that is allowed in certain cases) or is using equipment such as non-hand-held lights and cables, special vehicles, etc.
“STANDING ON A STREET, WALKWAY OF A BRIDGE, SIDEWALK, OR OTHER PEDESTRIAN PASSAGEWAY WHILE USING A HANDHELD DEVICE AND NOT OTHERWISE ASSERTING EXCLUSIVE USE BY ANY MEANS, INCLUDING PHYSICAL OR VERBAL, IS NOT ACTIVITY THAT REQUIRES A PERMIT.“
Chapter 9, Section 9-01 (b) Required and Optional Permits (1) a. (ii)
“(ii) Filming or photography of a parade, rally, protest, or demonstration except when using vehicles or equipment, does not requires a permit.
The MOFTB regulations can be found at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/film/html/news/important_info_permits.shtml
MTA rules are here: http://www.mta.info/nyct/rules/rules.htm#restricted

Know Your Rights by The National Lawyers Guild.
“The NLG’s latest “Know Your Rights” guide is titled You Have the Right to Remain Silent. This 16-page booklet is designed for activists and others who are contacted by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security or local law enforcement. It also contains useful information for non-citizens and minors. We hope this publication will satisfy a demand created by the recent FBI raids.”

According to the website of the New York City Liberties Union, “Things you can do if you feel an officer is acting unlawfully or unreasonably:
1 – Stay calm.
2 – On public property, it is legal to take pictures/videos of whatever you see, including federal buildings, construction sites, bridges, public transportation, police actions, etc.
We have the right to request and record the officer’s name and badge number. If an officer purposefully obscures his or her badge number or name, you should file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board by calling 311. In that case, take note of the date, time, specific location, and a physical description of the officer.
3 – Try to remember all the details of the interaction and write them down as soon as possible. If you are injured, seek medical attention immediately, and be sure to take photographs of your injuries and request copies of all treatment records.

If you are participating in an Occupy Wall Street event, particularly if you are planning to engage in civil disobedience, it is a good idea to identify a lawyer or legal organization ahead of time who you can call if you are arrested. Many organizations, including the National Lawyers’ Guild and Legal Aid Society, provide free or reduced-cost representation.

If you are arrested, ask for a lawyer immediately. Do your best to remember officers’ names, badge numbers, patrol car numbers and physical descriptions. Write down everything you remember as soon as possible. Try to get witness’s names and phone numbers. If you are injured, take photos of the injuries as soon as possible. Ask for copies of any medical treatment files.

You have the right to remain silent and the right to talk to a lawyer. Don’t tell the police anything except your name and address. Don’t give any explanations, excuses or stories, or sign any statements. Never answer questions without a lawyer present. You can make your defense later, in court, based on what you and your lawyer decide is best.

If you have a lawyer, ask to see him or her immediately. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you have the right to a free one. You should request a lawyer as soon as possible, and be prepared to make the request more than once. Don’t say anything to police without speaking to a lawyer.

Within a reasonable time after your arrest or booking, ask the police to contact a family member or friend. If you are permitted to make a phone call, anything you say at the precinct may be recorded or listened to. Never talk about the facts of your case over the telephone. Do not make any decisions in your case or sign any statements until you have talked with a lawyer. LEARN MORE: Know Your Rights: Demonstrating in New York City.

Question to lawyers, When the police arrest people at demonstrations, do they have to read them their rights and tell them the charges?

I found this info online but I don’t know if it applies to people arrested at protests:

“Every U.S. jurisdiction has its own regulations regarding what, precisely, must be said to a person arrested or placed in a custodial situation. The typical warning states:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”

Again, United States Court of Appeals. For the First Circuit Court in the SIMON GLIK case:
“In summary, though not unqualified, a citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.” and “In our society, police officers are expected to endure significant burdens caused by citizens’ exercise of their First Amendment rights. See City of Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451, 461 (1987) (“[T]he First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers.”). Indeed, “[t]he freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.”

PHOTOS and VIDEOS of protesters, me and National Lawyer Guild being arrested. How many cops do they need to arrest a legal observer?

After covering the demonstrations of the Egyptian community in NYC in support of the Egyptian revolution, a friend said, “You are a great Freedom Photographer”. At the end of December, another friend said, I am the “Photographer of protesters 2011”. See, I got an award!

THANKS to all for your support in 2011. I will be taking many pictures in 2012!!!
“I use photography to tell the stories of New York City”. “Uso la fotografía para decir las historias de la Ciudad de Nueva York”.

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OWS Activist Legal Working Group to Host Open Forum with NLG-NYC on Tuesday, January 3rd

OWS Activist Legal Working Group (OWS-ALWG) and the National Lawyers Guild-NYC Chapter (NLG-NYC) Invites OWS to the first in a series of open forum meetings

January 3, 2012
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
56 Walker Street
New York, NY

OWS ALWG wrote:
“Come join us and discuss your OWS legal needs with the NLG-NYC Chapter! Come hear an update from NLG-NYC Chapter on the legal front so far!

This meeting is to open up a dialogue between OWS and the NLG-NYC Chapter to get a sense of where OWS might need some legal help and the ways NLG-NYC might be able to help us out.

Did you want to discuss your arrest or criminal case? This is NOT that meeting! (Don’t worry, that meeting is coming soon.)

Did you want to talk about other legal stuff? Police misconduct? Individual property damaged in the raid? Does your working group need legal advice? Then this IS that meeting!

** This open forum will be facilitated by OWS Think Tank – thanks Think Tank!

Questions? Contact OWS ALWG: ows.legal@gmail.com”

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