Posts Tagged 'photographer arrested'

Among Protests, 2 Photographers Arrested at G-20

UPDATE: Time has published “10 Scenes from the Battlefield,” a collection of fairly arresting images from the G-20 protests.

The G-20 Summit was underway this weekend and so were the arrests. More than 600 people were arrested, and the small northwest Toronto courthouse that was processing them was overwhelmed.

On Saturday, two National Post photographers were arrested while covering protests surrounding the summit. Brett Gundlock and Colin O’Connor were charged with obstructing a peace officer and unlawful assembly, held for 24 hours, and have since been released. They describe their crappy conditions in jail here (though, truth be told, it seems standard as jail goes).

While there were reports of violent and destructive rioters, many people reported being picked up for arbitrary or nonexistent offenses. Even two members of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, a group that was monitoring civil right abuses at the protests, were arrested. As the National Post reported, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association weren’t pleased with how events unfolded:

“It would appear that the presumption of innocence has been suspended during the G20,” the group said, complaining of a “serious violation of basic rights of hundreds of people.”

The above video, the aptly named “The Battle of Toronto,”  was shot by YouTube user yfcandme, who says he was attacked by protestors while filming. Looking at the police presence it’s hard to believe it’s for an economic meeting and not World War III.

Article from National Post

Update: Charges Against LA Photographer Dropped

Criminal charges have been dropped against photographer Jonas Lara who was arrested while documenting two taggers in South Central LA in February. Through his legal defense fund, Lara was able to retain the legal services of Joel Koury of the Kavinoky Law Firm, who worked for far less than he normally does because he believed in the injustice of the case.

PDN Pulse reports that Koury knew his stuff and went in aggressively, refusing to take lesser charges that were still unfavorable to Lara.

“We’re not talking about some gang member, we’re talking about an actual photojournalist,” Koury says he told the prosecutor. “Just because a photojournalist takes a picture of someone committing a crime does not turn the photographer into a criminal,” he adds.

Koury’s tactic paid off, and now Lara is a free man, though he does have to pay a $200 fee to the property owner as restitution and he gets a disturbing the peace charge. The judge also ordered that Lara’s equipment be returned.

Put this as a win for photographers’ rights.

Read PDN Pulse’s story here and our own interview with Jonas Lara here.

OSU Refuses to Back Student Photographer


Photo by Jay Smith/The Lantern

UPDATE: Ohio State has announced they will not be charging Kotran, but he still plans to seek legal counsel to deal with a review by the school’s judiciary committee. Also, several high-profile journalists have pledged their support to Kotran.

We posted on Alex Kotran’s arrest last week and now it turns out he could be facing charges of criminal trespassing. But his school, Ohio State, has washed its hands of the situation, refusing to help him with legal assistance.

Kotran was photographing two cows that got loose last week as part of his job as a reporter for The Lantern when he was cuffed and detained. So the odd circumstances of this case are not only that he was working as a journalist at the time of the incident, but how can you criminally trespass on a public athletic field at a school you attend (and pay to go to)? The whole situation is asinine and wrong on so many levels.

The school said they cannot provide Kotran with assistance due to conflict of interest because all parties are affiliated with the university. OK, so if everyone is working for or attending OSU, then how about addressing it in house and acknowledging that charges are unwarranted?

Tom O’Hara, The Lantern’s adviser, says this:

“I find it odd that the university has the resources to pursue prosecution of a student who hasn’t done anything wrong, but it doesn’t have the resources to help defend a student who hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Former Washington Post editor Len Downie and OSU and Lantern alumni said this: “It is deeply disturbing to me as an alumnus of the School of Journalism,” and “I can understand the budget issues involved. But budget issues aside, in every other way, the school should be fully supportive of the student journalist.” Let’s hope Downie and other alums of the school write letters and make some noise about this.

Though I guess if you want to be realistic, coming up against authorities and bogus charges is a lesson every journalist needs to learn — though usually in the real world, media outlets are staunch proponents of journalists’ rights and will fight for their employees.

Article from The Lantern

Facing Jail: Q&A With Photographer Jonas Lara

Photo courtesy Jonas Lara

Photographer Jonas Lara is looking at a year in prison if things don’t go his way, and with only a public defender who doesn’t want to consider First Amendment issues, things are not looking good.

The facts: In February Jonas was arrested in Los Angeles while photographing two graffiti artists as part of a long-term project. He was charged with felony vandalism, which was later reduced to aiding and abetting vandals, and his court date is next Tuesday, May 11. His cameras, lenses and memory cards were  confiscated and they still haven’t been returned. He’s currently soliciting donations to his legal defense fund so that he can hire a private lawyer to argue his case.

You can show your support and donate on Jonas’ Facebook page. Here, we talk to Jonas about the situation.

Is this the first time you’ve had a problem with the authorities while photographing?
This is the first time I’ve ever been arrested but not the first time being hassled. Back in 2007 I was working on a freeway series and I was confronted by a police officer who asked why I was taking pictures of bridges and which terrorist organization I was a part of. I explained that I was working on an art project, and after showing my student ID and checking my name on his computer he said I was free to leave.

Did you try to explain you were just documenting the scene?
For the most part I kept my mouth shut, but I did mention that I was a student working on a documentary project.

How did they not believe you even after seeing your work and looking into your background?
The funny thing is that they did believe me and seemed very understanding; they were conducting their investigation on the site while I sat in the patrol car for about two hours. I figured they were going to let me go once they finished, but instead they said I was going to jail and never said what they were charging me with, nor did they ever read me my rights. It wasn’t until after spending six hours in the holding cell and being transferred to the jail cell that I was informed that I was being charged with vandalism. At that point it was felony vandalism. I asked how I could be charged with vandalism for simply taking pictures and they said to take it up with the judge.

What has been happening in your life since this happened?
Well, I haven’t had most of my gear so I’ve been borrowing from other photographer friends or using my point and shoot and vintage cameras to shoot projects.

Are you under a lot of stress?
I have been under a great deal of stress; I have been trying to continue to make work during this process. I’ve been doing some painting and mixed media work to keep me busy since I don’t have my usual photo equipment.

Is it just a whirlwind of lawyers and court appearances?
Yeah well, the only experience I have in the courtroom is watching “Law and Order” so it was unreal being there trying to defend myself with a public defender who didn’t even want to entertain the idea of bringing up 1st Amendment rights or photographers’ rights or anything along those lines.

How likely is that you will be convicted — have you been able to get a feel for what’s going to happen to you?
The thing is, up until this point, I don’t think the court has any sense of who I am (my background, education, credentials). My public defender was only concerned with getting me a plea with a lower sentence, so I’m not sure to be honest. After asking me whether I wanted to take a plea of one month in jail plus drivers license suspended and [me] refusing, he said if I go to trial and lose I could face up to a year in jail, which translates into 180 days. I’m supposed to move to New York in August to start graduate school in September at School of Visual Arts, so if I’m convicted I can forget about grad school.

Are you able to still do photography?
Well, like I stated before, I’ve been using my point and shoot cameras, Polaroid camera and borrowing cameras and lenses, but it’s definitely put a dent in my ability to produce photographic work.

Will this affect how you approach further assignments or projects?
Most definitely; I will be more cautious.

Looking back, what if anything would you have done differently?
Well, if I understood my rights better I would have stated that I had a right to be there and that I’m not obligated to prevent or report a crime because I’m a journalist. Being that it was my first time dealing with this type of thing I didn’t know how to properly navigate the situation.

Help Keep a Photographer Out of Jail


Photo by Jonas Lara

In February, artist/photographer Jonas Lara was photographing two graffiti artists in South Central Los Angeles as part of a long-term project he’s doing when he was arrested for felony vandalism, a charge that was later reduced to aiding and abetting vandals. He was jailed for 24 hours and his equipment was confiscated as evidence. His jury trial is on May 11, and if convicted, he could face up to a year in jail and have his license suspended.

Lara has started a legal defense fund to raise $6,500 for a private lawyer. He has $152.96 as of today. You can (and should) join his Facebook page, donate and spread the word. This is a bogus charge and a waste of our taxpayer dollars.

UC Berkeley Photojournalist Lands In Jail


Photo by Reginald James/TheBlackHour.com

If you’ve been following the woeful state of California’s public university system, you know there’s been some major protests about budget cuts that are decimating the schools’ previously stellar reputation.

Last Thursday, on March 4, thousands of demonstrators gathered at Oakland City Hall in support of public education funding. When a group splintered off for a march across Interstate 980/880, Cameron Burns, 18, a freshman at Berkeley, followed them with his Flip camera as a reporter for The Daily Californian.  

Burns found himself in the middle of a chaotic scene when riot police advanced on the protestors. He was tackled and handcuffed as one of 150 people arrested by Oakland police. He was charged with “obstructing a public place and unlawful assembly” and spent 20 hours in jail. Burns says he repeatedly told police he was a journalist, but he couldn’t prove it because he didn’t have his press pass.

Daily Californian staff, university officials and a state senator are working to get the charges dropped since Burns was working as a journalist during the melee. Still, he says he has “no regrets.”

Here’s Burns’ video of his experience at the protest. It’s too bad he didn’t get any video of the actual arrest because it would have made his piece.

Article via The Daily Californian

Bike Cops Arrest Photog at Nightclub Scene


Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/City Paper

Jauhien Sasnou, a freelance photographer in Philadelphia, was arrested last November for taking photos of a melee that took place outside of a nightclub. He was found guilty, fined $148 and ordered to do 24 hours of community service. The Philadelphia City Paper reports this week on Sasnou’s arrest and the ongoing problem photographers face when shooting scenes that involve law enforcement.

Sasnou says that, on the night in question, a group of concertgoers ignored police requests to disperse and shoving and pepper spray ensued. The whole incident took three minutes and three people were arrested – but not before Sasnou took out his camera to document what he describes as excessive force by the police. That’s when an officer noticed him and he was arrested. Sasnou was not informed what his crime was. (The police report says Sasnou “remained on location and began to take pictures” after he was told to leave.)

From the article:

Civil rights lawyers say that Sasnou’s experience isn’t uncommon. Although there doesn’t seem to be any hard data available, anecdotal evidence suggests that citizens who document police activity with cameras are frequently arrested.

In regards to photographing police officers, Pennsylvania apparently has a murky law that revolves around technicalities and the difference between “not prohibited” and “legally allowed.” Nevertheless, the Philadelphia police spokesman said photographing police activity is not something you should be arrested for.

And, finally, the writer makes this point, which is one we’ve long held on this blog:   

It is, perhaps, ironic in an age when, across the country, police cameras capture and ticket red-light-runners, and many traffic stops are videotaped from the dashboard of a squad car. “Well, all of a sudden when the shoe is on the other foot, it’s, ‘Wait, wait, there’s an intrusion of the wiretap act,'” says Paul Hetznecker, a Philadelphia civil rights lawyer.

Article via the City Paper



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