Chicago Photographer Arrested Again – CPD on the Warpath

bond2Monique Bond, CPD Spokesperson

UPDATE: Mike Anzaldi has been cleared of all charges. Read the post here.

We checked back in with Mike Anzaldi, the freelance photojournalist who was arrested by the Chicago Police Department October 22 at a crime scene. Thinking we’d hear about the status of his arrest, we were shocked to learn he’d been arrested again – and the second offense is even more outlandish than the first!

As we posted before, Anzaldi was arrested and his equipment was confiscated, and about 500 images were deleted from his memory card, when the Chicago police decided that he wasn’t allowed to film a crime scene from a neighbor’s private property. He was charged with obstruction and resisting arrest and his status hearing is set for November 19.

On November 3, Anzaldi responded to a report of shots fired at a church. When he got there, it turned out a man had brought a plastic gun into a shelter and there was no crime after all, but Anzaldi decided to shoot a few minutes of footage just in case. As he was doing this, he was approached by an officer who told him he couldn’t stand where he was standing and then asked to see his credentials.

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This officer called his name into the dispatcher – here’s where it gets weird – and the dispatcher apparently told her to detain him. The officers on the scene were confused and clearly not in the loop, but nonetheless were following orders from above. After some back and forth with higher-ups, the officer told Anzaldi that there was some sort of problem with his ID but the computer in her car was broken, so she asked him to come to the station to clear things up. They promised it would take 15 minutes and they’d return him to his car. Anzaldi admits it was foolish of him to willingly go with them, but understand it from his point of view - it was not a crime scene, he had done nothing wrong, it was not a confrontational situation, and he never imagined anything would come of it.

Four hours later, and he’s still sitting in the station’s interview room when he’s told they are placing him under arrest. He is not given a reason, an explanation, or read his rights. They put him in a holding cell, where he spent the night. The next day was Election Day, which is a court holiday, so he was brought to Cook County Jail and in front of a TV judge, where his bond was set at $10,000.

“They charged me with the exact same thing,” Anzaldi says. “They know how it works. If you get charged with the same crime twice – especially in this case I hadn’t even gone to court on the first one – you can’t [be released]. They lock you up and you stay until you see a judge.”

To recap: A photojournalist spends the night in a holding cell, is then taken to one of the worst jails in the country to wait among felons and convicts, given a bail usually reserved for murderers and drug offenders - all for standing outside a church and taking video.

“There is no doubt we’re not playing by the rules anymore,” Anzaldi says.

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When asked if there is some sort a blacklist in Chicago that he’s now on, Anzaldi says, “I don’t know if there’s ‘officially’ one, but clearly there is one. There has to be because this beat officer who was on the street had no idea who I was or what the issue was. She was told by the dispatcher, ‘Bring that dude in.’”

The second case was ultimately dismissed because the arresting officer didn’t show up to court and the judge threw it out. That doesn’t mean it’s over though; the state has 120 days to reinstate the case, which they later  informed Anzaldi’s attorney they’d like to do. “My attorney said you can do that, but we’ve got video of you guys being stupid and you might want to see it before you go forward,” Anzaldi says. The state is supposed to review the video this week. “Hopefully, if they see it, they’ll have the brains to drop it.”

“I saw a funny – well, it’s funny now, but at the time it wasn’t as funny,” says Anzaldi. “When I was at Cook County in their lockup, there was a Xerox sign up on the wall that said ‘There’s no reason for it, it’s just police policy.’ And I’m looking and thinking, Jesus. This is exactly how they think.”

In the meantime, Anzaldi’s livelihood is, quite seriously, in jeopardy. Is he worried about that going forward? “Oh absolutely,” he says. “Now I’m totally stifled. There is no possible way that I can safely continue doing what it is I do, especially on the South Side. We all know sitting here today that I’m right and there’s an injustice here. But they don’t care. The Chicago Police are getting in trouble for torturing people, actually physically torturing people. They definitely don’t care that the first amendment rights of a photographer have been violated. They’ll put me in jail again and then that’ll be a third strike. They don’t let you out [for a third strike]. It’s not about right and wrong for them, it’s about what they have the power to do.”

While the Chicago media hasn’t been enthusiastic in covering this story, the attention of a few outlets, including ours, prompted the Chicago Police to launch an internal affairs investigation. They contacted Anzaldi for his side of the story, but he is not going to cooperate before the trial is settled - and he isn’t overly optimistic about its effectiveness anyway. “That’s cool, but obviously there’s a conflict there,” he says. “It’s the police department investigating the police department.”

He is, however, optimistic about his upcoming trial. “The key evidence in the first case is [CPD spokesperson] Monique Bond saying, ‘You’re fine to stand here.’ That’s the key because if I’m okay to stand here then I’m okay to shoot. If I can stand here, I can take pictures here. And no court is going to go against that because that would be ridiculous. Now you’re going to set a precedent? You’re going to all of the sudden tell people you can only photograph where the police say you can photograph?”

To put this in perspective, Anzaldi is not a belligerent hothead, he’s not anti-police, and he doesn’t look for trouble. His job is to document news events every day, and it’s in his best interest to maintain a civil working relationship with the city police and other officials. At the same time, he is a staunch proponent of first amendment rights and is not about to back down when he knows he’s in the right.

“I’m confronted every day because I do most of my work, if not all of it, in the city,” he says. “This doesn’t happen once a week. Every day a cop comes up to me and says, “Who the hell are you?” That’s usually how it starts. It’s not always, “Who the hell are you?”, sometimes it’s, “Who the fuck are you?’, ‘What are you doing here?’, ‘Who do you work for?’”

He continues: “I don’t respond well to that kind of stuff. I’m more the type who’s like, ‘Who the fuck am I?’ ‘Who the fuck are you?’ Since when do I need to identify myself to you? I know what the rules are. The rules in Illinois and the rules in most states are that you do not have to identify yourself if you’re not suspected of committing a crime.”

And since when is it a crime to take video of a building on a public street?

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“I’m an expert in photography and photographer’s rights,” Anzaldi says. “It’s my job. I know what I can and can’t do. [Police officers], on the other hand, I don’t know so much. I don’t think that they’re actually experts in the law. I don’t think that’s part of their expertise.”

Monique Bond, the Chicago Police spokesperson, hasn’t responded to our request for an interview.

If you’re interested in contacting the CPD, go here.

33 Responses to “Chicago Photographer Arrested Again – CPD on the Warpath”


  1. 1 Photographer November 19, 2008 at 5:51 am

    This photographer should prove a point. Sue the hell out of the Chicago PD for violating your civil rights, TWICE. Then donate whatever you win above and beyond attorney costs to the ACLU or some other type of organization that protects civil liberties.

    If you win, and do it often enough, eventually they’ll HAVE to stop treating photographers this way.

  2. 2 J Smith November 19, 2008 at 7:26 am

    I second that. Sue the hell out of those bastards so that they think twice about harrassing photographers. Chicago can’t run a “police state” … talk about corrupt. Glad I don’t live there.

  3. 3 Stephen November 19, 2008 at 8:32 am

    I can see this happening once due to police ignorance, but twice and to hear him say the police are always asking him what he is doing makes it sound like they do not want independent documentation of their activities.

    I am reluctant to jump on the “sue them” bandwagon, but it seems that this may indeed be necessary here to start making the public aware of the loss of freedom and to force some real attitude changes in this department.

  4. 4 Alex Menendez November 19, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Everyday I see cops in my neck of the woods who not only think they are above the law, they actually tell you they are. Funny how their little clique works….we are the top of the food chain and you don’t fuck with us, yada yada yada.

    Lets hope the judge in this case actually has a set of balls and tells the offending cops what the truth is and what is really expected of them. Hopefully their little gang mentality will eventually crumble and they will too see that they are not there to make the rules, just enforce them.
    Problem is that once they put the rule book down, they never open it again so the facts of their thinking are based on what they want them to be, not what the rules actually are.

    Photographers in the world are getting short-sticked everyday by the police, because we are the ones exposing these guys/gals. Perhaps the guilty ones are the ones who dislike us the most….

    Just remember, we don’t make the rules, we just follow them and we have the power to EXPOSE the rulebreakers.

    I will get off of my soapbox now……..before I get shot off of it!

  5. 5 Chriss Aghana Nwobu November 20, 2008 at 12:14 am

    One will assume things like this can only happen in developing countries where rights and freedom of information is still an issue, but in United States? It definitely calls for attention.

  6. 6 Ex-Photojournalist November 20, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Wow it sounds like we are moving towards communist China

  7. 7 Old School November 20, 2008 at 10:40 am

    WOW! Good thing you guys aren’t lawyers. You’d all starve. When a cop tells you to identify yourself at a crime scene (or possible crime scene), you identify yourself or you’ll be detained until your identity and purpose for being there is revealed. By the way, what are “photographer’s rights”? Do they have more rights or less rights then the average Joe? Thank god you asshats aren’t in charge.

  8. 8 babydiscarted November 20, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Old School: You might want to reread the post. Anzaldi DID give his ID to the officers on the scene; they said there was a problem with it, brought him to the station for clarification and arrested him 4 hours later. The problem was that there was no problem – no cause for arrest.

    Photographers and regular citizens have the same rights, and that is that they are allowed to photograph public places.

  9. 9 Dan B November 20, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Sueing the city will do nothing. Why should they care how much of the publics’ tax money is spent? The people involved need to be fired and charges brought agaisnt them.

    Now if you can sue and get the persons (cops) personal money now that will work!

  10. 10 Jeremy November 20, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I’d love to see how this plays out. To Old School. There has to be a crime in order to have a crime scene. There was no crime = no crime scene. I suspect you’re a member of the blue line, which is great, and thank you for your service, but make sure you tow your line. You work for the public, not against it.

  11. 11 snapper November 20, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    old school is trolling here, like he did on the chicago cop blog. while the rest of the comments here, and most on that blog actually talk about the national, state, and local law, he seems motivated by emotion and the ever popular idea that what the police say, goes.

    old school, you betcha. 1968 is around the corner to the right.

  12. 12 Terry November 20, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Yep, Old School = troll.

  13. 13 Josh November 22, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Moat Cops are “Brainless”,and will do what ever they are told to do.
    When the “Revolt” starts,who`s side will they -the Brainless Cops – be on?
    I wonder if these Nazi Cops will shoot their own Mother,or son,or daughter,that happen to be in the crowd that is Revolting?..most likely will.
    I think Cops are given drugs while in training at the “Academy”…other wise,how could they become so stupid and NAZI like.
    American…and going to stay that way.

  14. 14 Ditto Head November 23, 2008 at 4:07 am

    As a supporter of our boys in blue and the tough job at hand, while constantly in the spotlight, it baffles me when things like this happen. I don’t mean this to include all police officers but only the ones who continually are auditioning for the ‘Moron’ award. The same ones that join the force for all the wrong reasons and drag the role of public servants through the ‘crapper’.

    Does large amounts of doughnut grease suppress ones capability to think, let alone reason. Then again, the ability to reason is the highest form of intelligence and maybe some ‘turkey herders’ expect overtime to use that much energy.

    In this day and age of Youtube and instant news, the gestapo mindset continues to be recycled by individuals who think doing so is their contribution to being green.

  15. 15 arthur November 23, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    AND that is how it is in Liberal Utopias. Aren’t you glad you voted for Obama now?

  16. 16 discarted November 23, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    arthur-

    what does obama have anything to do with bad cops and their illegal activities and false arrests?

  17. 17 Jon Paul McClellan November 24, 2008 at 6:31 am

    This must be the Old Fascist School.

    How does it feel to be a Nazi?

    Old School November 20, 2008 at 10:40 am
    WOW! Good thing you guys aren’t lawyers. You’d all starve. When a cop tells you to identify yourself at a crime scene (or possible crime scene), you identify yourself or you’ll be detained until your identity and purpose for being there is revealed. By the way, what are “photographer’s rights”? Do they have more rights or less rights then the average Joe? Thank god you asshats aren’t in charge.

  18. 18 Anna Soeiro December 21, 2008 at 9:27 am

    I cannot even believe this. I have known Mike since high school and am absolutley appalled that this has happened. I am however, even more grateful that I moved out of Chicago over a decade ago. Santa Fe is a very loving supportive place for artists of all walks of life and though we have many, many issues as any community does, THIS would have never ever happened!

  19. 19 Mike Smith January 3, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Face it, we live in a police state these days.

  20. 20 Old School's an idiot April 2, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Old School is oblivious. As a member of the White House Press Corps, I can tell you sir that yes, the press actually does have more rights than the average Joe.

    The simple concept of “Freedom of the Press” allows us to have more access and less restrictions.

    Do you see normal people flying around on Air Force One? Do you see the average Joe getting WH access at any time needed?

    The Chicago Police even certify the media having more access by GRANTING MEDIA ACCREDITATION! What’s the point, if it doesn’t identify them as something other than a normal citizen? Otherwise just a drivers license would do.

    I love when arrogance meets ignorance, as Old School’s post here showed.

    Mike

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  1. 1 Chicago Photographer Arrested Again - CPD on the Warpath « | The Click Trackback on November 19, 2008 at 5:01 am
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