Elfie videoing protest is culturally
profiled by Fresno city police


by Elfie
July 10, 2002, I was videoing 3 members of Student Action Front
protesting the animal cruelty of the circus. There were security guards
present. I videoed them threatening the protesters with arrest. The
protestors were simply walking on the sidewalk, carrying signs and
politely passing out literature.

A bicycle cop appeared and advised the protesters to keep moving so they
didn’t give the impression they are blocking pedestrians. A paddy wagon
and 3 police cars arrived — a total of 4 vehicles, 5 bicycles and 10
cops. Serg. Bryant was in charge.

I was videoing some officers talking with the protesters when, with no
forewarning, Serg. Bryant came up behind me grabbed my arm and my
camera, violating my first amendment rights. My first reaction was to
resist releasing my video camera because I couldn’t see who was grabbing
me. Bryant demanded that I release the camera or go to jail. I released
it, and he yanked it out of my hand.

Another officer asked if I had been arrested recently. I told him I had
never been arrested. Then he said he smelled marijuana. I told him he
didn’t. (It is part of my spiritual path to not use marijuana, and any
close friends will testify to that.) Then he asked for i.d. I showed
him a press card I had hanging around my neck. He asked for my driver’s
license, which I showed him. He took it. Then he illegally searched my
camera bag and person.

They made me stand there for a half hour without my camera while they
searched for my “record” via radio contact with somebody. About half way
through, I asked an officer why it was taking so long. He answered that
sometimes after doing a computer search they do a hand search to make
sure they haven’t missed anything.

When they found nothing on my record, my camera was returned with the
tape intact. I had to ask to get my license back. But I got no apology.

Some minutes after Bryant yanked my camera, he said he was protecting
his officers, and it could have been a gun. I was videoing the
protesters and then the police interviewing the protesters. Apparently
Bryant objected to this. Keep in mind that this is the day after an
incident where a citizen in Inglewood, CA had footage of a policeman
punching a black youth in the face, after slamming him against a car
hood, handcuffed.

There was no reasonable explanation for this action against me. I was
not carrying a picket sign. I was carrying a video camera and had a
press identification tag. I have been photographing police and
protestors during social justice street actions for over 50 years
everywhere from the South during the Civil Rights confrontations to
Seattle and D.C. and Fresno and throughout California; and have never
before been treated like a criminal or threatened with arrest.

My understanding is that the the police are public servants performing
their duties in public and I have a right to video them without being
treated like a criminal. Would they have hassled any of the major TV
reporters and camerapeople?

Could they have been intimidated by me — 76-year-old great-grandfather weighing in at 140 #¿?

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