Local journalist Carlos Miller has a blog called Photography is Not a Crime. Apparently Miami-Dade police officers are not avid readers.
County cops arrested Miller on Tuesday night as he was filming the Fuzz forcibly evacuating Occupy Miami protesters from Government Center downtown. But he says the police are the ones who messed up.
"They took a routine bullshit arrest and turned it into a huge constitutional violation and a possible federal lawsuit because they deleted my footage," Miller says. "They messed with the wrong reporter."
UPDATE: We are embedding video of Miller's arrest, which he says he recovered this weekend. In another strange twist, the cop who had Miller arrested appears to be a public information officer.
Miller says that the police were actually doing an admirable job clearing Government Center without violence. But when he asked a policewoman if he could move past a phalanx of officers in order to get to his car, he says all Hell broke loose.
The cop suddenly shouted for his arrest and Miller was booked on charges of obstruction of justice and resisting arrest without violence (he says cops forgot to include the statute number for obstruction, so he is now only battling the resisting arrest charge).
"When I was arrested, there were several other photographers and journalists in that area," he says. "So why was the independent journalist the only one arrested?"
But Miller says the cops really screwed up when they allegedly deleted his footage. Miami Dade Police declined to comment.
"If you're going to arrest me for doing nothing, fair enough, that's your stupidity," Miller says. "But to delete my images... that shows that they were afraid of my footage getting out. That's totally illegal."
He has some support. The National Press Photographers Association has chimed in on his behalf in a letter today to MDPD director James Loftus:
The reliance by your officer to question, detain, interfere with, arrest, seize and attempt to destroy the property of someone engaged in a lawful activity under color of law is reprehensible. At best - behavior that chills free speech is extremely unprofessional - at worst it is criminal. Law enforcement agencies are established to uphold and enforce existing laws not to act in a lawless manner. Photography may not be restricted in a public place by officers wishing to avoid the documentation of their actions.See below for a full copy of the letter.
This isn't the first time that Miller has been arrested for his photography. He was cuffed in 2007 for taking photos of cops while they were interviewing someone on Biscayne Boulevard. He was sentenced to a year of probation, but the case was later dropped on appeal.
This time, however, he says the police made a bigger mistake by trying to destroy his property.
"I guarantee I'm not going to let this go," he says. "I have experience making huge issues out of my arrests and I'm going to make a huge issue out of [this one]."
Miller is considering a lawsuit. He faces up to a year in jail for the resisting arrest charge.
"But I don't see that happening," he says. "If it does happen, I'm still not going to stop fighting."
UPDATE: Here is video that Miller shot of his arrest. It appears to confirm his claims that (1) there were other media at the scene who were not arrested, and (2) that he didn't do much to provoke his arrest. In a strange twist, the officer who demands his arrest appears to be public information officer Major Nancy Perez.
MDP Letter 02-03-12
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