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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Education & Student Activism | Indymedia | Police State and Prisons
The UC8 Reporter: A Personal Account of Police Abuse of Power Against a Free Press
It's hard to know where to start. I'm not used to writing stories about myself. Usually, I am the one sharing news about other people through recordings and words. I cover events and publish reports to Indybay. I often report on street demonstrations, some more rowdy than others. And while I recognize the privilege my skin-tone grants me in our society and that I have not taken the types of risks war reporters do, I know enough from having seen what's happened to other journalists over the years that I am not immune from abuses by law enforcement authorities.
I was detained by UC Berkeley police while I was reporting on a campus demonstration on the night of December 11th, 2009. UCPD wanted my camera, so they took it, handcuffed me, and ten hours later I was in general population at Santa Rita. While I sat in jail, UC Berkeley's PR machine hit overdrive exaggerating the events of the night before, all the while neglecting to mention that they had wrongfully arrested a journalist. UCPD ended up charging me with five felonies and two misdemeanors. My final bail was set at $132,500. Then at my arraignment on December 15th, due to a complete lack of evidence, the Alameda County District Attorney's office filed absolutely no charges against me (or any of the other seven people who were arrested separately that night). Yet I was still out the $13,000 it took to secure my release from jail, my name had been on television and in newspapers everywhere as an arrestee accused of serious crimes, and UC had successfully managed to not only silence my eye-witness reporting that would have contradicted many of their press statements as the news broke but to seize my photographs from the scene for their own purposes.
I don't write this to make the story about anything it's not. I wasn't killed or physically beaten by police. But I am compelled to stand up for my own right to continue reporting without undue police interference and for the many other journalists who have been or might be mistreated in police attacks on the free press. Unfortunately, it's all too common in the U.S. and across the globe. I will also describe my experience in the Alameda County jail for the benefit of those lucky enough to have never walked in jail shoes — food for thought when considering the over two million people currently behind bars in the United States.
The Machine Defensively Revs Up
The "machine" in this story is none other than the same one Mario Savio called out forty-five years ago on December 2nd,1964. He was speaking metaphorically, but he was also speaking about the University of California system and specifically UC Berkeley.
This time, this school year, it is students fighting a machine that increasingly charges more and offers less, continuing to deny them a meaningful voice in how their public school is administered. The machine in turn relies on tried and true methods to keep the students in their place, including golden oldies such as PR efforts blaming "outside agitators" for protests on campus and calling in riot police to physically push students back with force should they ever mount any sort of credible challenge to the machine's unquestioned authority.
And so it was this past Fall, as students, campus workers, and other allies tried a variety of means to shake up the system and bend the machine to their needs. In September, there were mass rallies up and down California and some of the first student occupations of recent times. By November, student occupations of public spaces were becoming more commonplace, typically hard lock-downs of buildings. At UC Berkeley's occupation, administrators called in riot police from several area departments who proceeded to club students surrounding the building, breaking one young woman's hand.
In December during what is traditionally known as "Dead Week", a time when students prepare for the semester's final examinations, UC Berkeley students tried something a little different. They occupied Wheeler Hall for a second time, but declared the building an "Open University" where students and community members were welcomed to organize their own study sessions, teach-ins, and so forth, all the while allowing scheduled classes to continue as usual.
The "Live Week" student-led attempt to reinvent what public education could mean was initially resisted by the machine on the first night, but then allowed to proceed uninhibited for the rest of the week, that is until early that Friday morning. Without warning, police moved into the building at 5am, locked the doors, and arrested all sixty-four people sleeping inside, bussing them to Santa Rita.
The Wheeler raid was widely seen as a huge betrayal by UC administrators who had issued no dispersal order to the peaceful (and sleeping) demonstrators before arresting them en mass. The machine didn't care that classes had been allowed to proceed or that occupiers were fastidious about cleaning the spaces they were using. The machine was determined to let everyone know who was in charge.
Nevertheless, determined to carry on, the concert students had planned for the last night of Live Week in Wheeler's auditorium was moved off campus so that it could continue as scheduled. And that's where I walk into the picture.
Five Felonies and Two Misdemeanors in Fifteen Minutes
I had hoped to be able to report on the concert, especially since Boots Riley of Oakland's The Coup was set to appear. I wanted to be able to share his take on the recent student protests and the arrests made that morning at Wheeler. Unfortunately, I arrived too late. As I pulled up in my car at 11pm, what may have been a hundred or more people were pouring out of the venue and onto the street. Realizing that it didn't appear to be attendees simply exiting the concluded concert, but rather a protest march, I parked as quickly as I could, grabbed my camera, and headed to catch up with the march on foot.
Without going into all of the details that can be found in the motion filed with the court on my behalf on April 16th, I followed the march onto what appeared to be UC Berkeley campus, not knowing where it might be headed. I witnessed a mass of mostly masked demonstrators, maybe a dozen people holding torches. A few people separated from the larger group and threw a trash can at the door of a building I did not know, broke planters, broke exterior light fixtures, and cracked a window. I shot perhaps fifteen photographs in this short time, mostly of the large group moving along and the damage caused by the smaller group. The last photo I believe I shot was of a single approaching police cruiser with its lights and siren on.
As I walked down some stairs toward the area where it seemed police would be confronting the large mass of demonstrators, the protesters ran away. To my surprise as I stood at the bottom of the stairs, rather than pursuing those fleeing the scene, the UC police car stopped right in front of me. Two UCPD officers jumped out of the car and immediately demanded my camera — they said they believed I had evidence of a crime. I informed them that I was a journalist reporting on the demonstration and that I had a press pass. They told me that I was being detained, took my camera, put me in handcuffs and placed me in the back of their patrol car. I noticed a clock on the dashboard of the patrol car — it had been just fifteen minutes since I left my own car.
In a later exchange with one of the officers who had detained me, Officer Wycoff, I said that they would not have detained me if I had a KTVU logo on the side of my camera. He replied, "We've done it to them, too." That claim was dubious, for UCPD as well as other police departments, because generally the large corporate media outlets are allowed access to all sorts of locations where independent journalists covering the same event run the very real risk of police harassment or worse.
On January 14th, 2009, corporate videographers ran along unimpeded with protesters who smashed storefront and car windows in and around Oakland's City Center. A better, more recent example would be the corporate reporters and videographers who were allowed total access to document events on I-880 during the March 4th student protests, while independent journalists from Democracy Now!, the SF Bay Guardian, and Indybay were all arrested along with the protesters.
In another exchange I had with UCPD that night, after several officers had finally examined my press pass, I said to Officer Wycoff that I did not think it was legal for them to detain me and seize my camera and he snorted back, "You're not a lawyer, so shut the fuck up."
About two hours after I was first detained, despite the numerous times I had told them that I was a journalist and had even shown them my press pass, I was informed that I was being arrested for "riot" and vandalism. UCPD kept my camera and I was transported to Santa Rita "mega-jail", the fifth largest jail in the United States, designed to hold over 4,000 inmates at any given time, making it larger than many prisons.
Santa Rita Weekend
Over three hours after I was originally detained, my handcuffs were removed so that I could turn in my personal possessions to the jail keepers. After spending a sleepless might in various crowded concrete cells being processed into high-traffic "Rita" I was finally in jail clothes, then strip searched and sent to the pod I was assigned to by 9am Saturday morning. I had managed to get one collect telephone call out as I was processed (it was the only landline number I could remember — jail phones will not allow calls to mobile phones). With hopes of that single call leading to me making bail, I found myself in building 33 West with hundreds of other inmates. My particular enclosure, lower-C pod, was packed full with 14 bunk beds and twenty-four other inmates, leaving just two to three feet in between bunks for navigating the space. There was only one other inmate in my pod who appeared to be of European descent.
Obviously I was anxious as I walked through the bars of the pod, having never previously been in general population of a jail. The first thing I was told by another inmate, as I had been told by prison guards on my way in, was that a shower a day was mandatory. Not wanting to make waves, I responded that I would definitely shower every day, at which point I was told that I needed to shower upon entry to the pod. I chose an empty top bunk for the thin mattress I had been given by guards and the small number of other items I had in my possession such as a short toothbrush, a disposable razor, a 2'x3' towel, a washcloth, a motel-sized bar of soap, and a paper cup I had held on to from earlier in the morning.
An inmate led me to the bathroom in the pod to explain more rules. There was one sink which was never to be spit into. There were three metal toilets, one of which was a urinal. The one furthest back in the space was for shitting only and the other two were for urinating. There was no toilet paper. A small wall separated the toilets from the rest of the pod; the shower was in full view of the entire pod and the large open area on the other side of the bars. I grabbed the tiny and thin body towel I had been given and headed for the one-person shower. For modesty, there was a small swinging door on the shower that covered the midsection of whomever was in there.
I then headed back to my bunk, as there is no other place to go, still moist due to the inadequacy of the jail's towel. The boredom of jail time was striking. A few inmates had newspapers or magazines. Mostly, though, it was about laying on your bunk and napping on and off. Despite being incredibly tired, I closed my eyes several times but was never able to fully sleep, anxious of possible mistreatment by guards or other inmates and about making bail.
The inmates were not overly friendly as jail is not a fun place to be, but everyone was agreeable and I didn't hear an argument the entire time. Inmates had largely self-selected areas of the pod seemingly by racial identity, but there were no tensions between races in the pod. Conversations spread across the entire pod. A Latino man in the lower bunk beside me started to call me Charlie Manson when he spoke to me, which was unsettling, but I wasn't really sure what to make of it. He asked me how many people I had killed. I kept to myself and my own thoughts as much as I could.
Sometime about noon, bag lunches were provided, to be eaten by inmates inside the half dozen or so pods in the building. Being vegetarian, and wanting to make good with other inmates, I gave away the slice of bologna I had been provided, as well as a water-flavoring powder packet that I was unsure about. That left me with two dry pieces of bread and an orange. I filled my small cup with water from the sink and ate my bread.
Not long after that, a hard-to-hear announcement came over the central intercom that I had made bail, to grab my possessions and head to the main building door. Other inmates asked me for my orange, razor, etc and I happily handed them over. Once I had made it to the building entrance, I set my mattress and other items where I was told to, and was directed to the room in which I had previously been strip-searched on my way into the jail. I paced around the room with mixed feelings, sadness for the countless other inmates I was leaving behind but growing satisfaction that my own freedom was impending. I nervously whistled and made up dumb songs as I paced the room. About forty-five minutes later a voice came over the intercom in the room and informed me that my charges and bail had been increased and that I was to return to my pod. My heart sunk, big time. I didn't know what my additional charges were nor how much my bail had been inflated. I walked to the area I had left my mattress and towels, grabbed them, and returned to my pod.
I regretted having giving away the few things I had when I thought I'd made bail, but I was relieved when, without even having to ask for them, the other inmates volunteered every last item back to me. Another concern of mine was that I had been holding my morning constitution, preferring to handle my business when I reached the outside, knowing that only one other inmate had toilet paper and I wasn't about to ask him for any of it. But after being denied bail, I finally relented and did what I had to do. Not wanting to have a filthy butt afterwards, I wet my wash cloth prior to crapping and used that to wipe with. I then washed it off in the shower and returned to my bunk.
When I had first returned to the pod, the Latino man in the bunk next to me said, "Oh, great, Charlie's back. I guess I'll have to sleep with one eye open tonight." I couldn't help but laugh, and I realized that he had been joking all along, ironically calling me out as a danger to the pod. For further comic relief, there was a drama in the building about some inmates having stolen cake that was to be made available to certain inmates at dinner. Much of the day, pod doors were left open even though inmates were not welcome to roam the large open area. There only ever seemed to be about one or two guards in the vicinity and apparently some inmate had made it to the food area without being seen by guards and had stolen all of the evening's cake. My pod was a twitter with conversations about the missing cake. It was the big excitement of the day. [Last month, a similar situation over missing bag lunches led to a complete lockdown of the entire jail.]
Inmates spent an hour or more cleaning the pod, sweeping it, and even mopping it with some sort of cleaning solution the guy with the toilet paper had. Inmates took turns with the broom and mop sweeping around their own bunks until the effort had reached from one end of the pod to the other. The guy with the toilet paper and cleaning solution wore a medical-type face mask the entire time I was there, leading me to wonder about the possibilities of disease outbreaks in such a confined space. The inmates did their best to create a sanitary environment. One inmate who I never saw get up or peek out of his blanket was harangued by other inmates for his stinky feet, but he didn't budge and eventually they gave up, not doing anything further to coerce him to shower.
I watched hour after hour tick by on the big clock in the main area of the building, losing hope that I would be released. I was incommunicado with the outside world and not sure how late banks might be able to handle requests related to making bail. If I wasn't out by Saturday afternoon, with most banks closed on Sunday, I presumed I would remain in jail until Monday. As I felt sunset approaching, I began to heavily think about what it would be like to spend my first night in the pod.
The pod doors had been closed automatically at some point in the afternoon, but they slid open again when it was time for the evening meal in the common area. Inmates were called out pod by pod to stand in line and get their hot meals. My pod was amongst the first few called and with my food tray in hand I proceeded to sit at an empty table. Within seconds several inmates corrected me, telling me that I was to sit at this other table on the other side. I stood and looked over to where they were pointing, and damn it if it wasn't the one and only "white" table. Not about to disturb the order of things, I proceeded over to the other table. Apparently the racial harmony in my pod did not extend to the greater population assembled together. The meal itself consisted of two or three shriveled up hot dogs by themselves, some kind of pasta shells with a watery cream sauce and a flake or two of what might have been vegetable matter, pinto beans, and a box of milk. I traded away my hot dogs and milk for two extra helpings of pasta. The beans were horrible — it puzzled me how they could make beans taste so bad and I wondered if they were cooked with lard (I had already used that soap the jail provided me, no doubt lard-based). As I ate, one of the other inmates at my table attempted to befriend me, but it freaked me out nonetheless. As he told me that I could come to him for any help I needed and to be sure to let him know if anyone messed with me in my pod, with the eyes of most of the others at the table on me, I couldn't help but question to myself how much of their interest in my protection came from a white supremacist perspective. In 15-20 minutes, dinner was over and we were all instructed to return to our cells.
I could see through the little slits of windows in the pod that darkness was on the horizon. It was then that a second announcement about my having made bail came over the intercom. I was leery about it being real. Other inmates congratulated me, and I said, "We'll see." They told me that I would definitely get out the second time. I finally identified myself as a wrongfully arrested journalist and suddenly a group of inmates gathered around me. The guy with the mask and the toilet paper made a request. He wanted me to tell people on the outside that inmates had serious concerns that the jail keepers were not taking adequate precautions to prevent the spread of Swine Flu/H1N1 in the jail. The others around us nodded in agreement. I promised him that I would include it in whatever I wrote about the jail.
As I was being transferred out, I felt (and continue to feel) bad for the five people arrested the night of December 11th who did not have someone they could ask to dig into their retirement or other savings to cover the bond payment. Two others were bailed out on Sunday. Those that didn't make bail spent late Friday night through the following Tuesday evening in Santa Rita for no reason on trumped up bogus charges the District Attorney never had any intention of filing. Likewise, I can't help but wonder how many misfortunates sit in Rita at any given moment unable to make bail, waiting for arraignments, hearings, and trials on bad cases based on nothing other than a police officer's word — not to mention those in jail on the word of paid informants or due to planted evidence, or without even getting into the racist and classist nature of the prison-industrial complex in America. I was fortunate and I spent less than 24 hours in custody.
My jailers had one surprise yet in store for me on my way out. As a person who had been arrested on felony charges, I was required to submit a DNA sample before I could be released on my current bail, as per a new California law that went into effect on January 1st, 2009, making it a misdemeanor to refuse to provide DNA. It didn't matter that it was merely an arrest, an accusation made by police requiring no evidence, nor that in a matter of days the Alameda District Attorney's office would file zero charges against me. If I wanted out then and there, then I had to rub swabs inside my mouth so that the state could add my DNA to a growing database of such genetic material. [Less than two weeks after giving up my DNA to the state, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the taking of DNA from mere arrestees was not a constitutional violation and therefore denied an ACLU request for an injunction against enforcement of the law.]
But I did make bail, even after it was ridiculously jacked up. I was out by about 7:30pm on Saturday. It was not until I was released from jail that I learned that I was charged with multiple felonies including attempted arson and two counts of assault on a police officer with a deadly weapon. I also discovered that the building from the night before was UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's residence, occupied at the time, and that Arnold Schwarzeneger had called me and the seven others arrested that night terrorists.
The Machine in Overdrive, with a Willing Assist from the Corporate Media
It might be news to some people but the so-called objectivity of the mainstream corporate media is a myth. Every person, and likewise every news journalist and media outlet, carries within them certain biases and values that are inevitably reflected in their accounts of events. This simple fact in and of itself is not necessary a fault, unless truth is sacrificed in the course of maintaining a false sense of objectivity. In human communications, mass and otherwise, truth is more important than any pretenses of objectivity.
One of my favorite examples of this would be when media outlets use "balance" as a tool with which to feign objectivity. To illustrate this example, consider a hypothetical media report on, say, dinosaurs which offers equal time to a paleontologist and a creationist to espouse their views. This might on the surface appear to be the fairest way to report on dinosaurs, but in doing so, a greater truth is sacrificed in that the paleontologist bases her opinion on the foundation of hundreds of years of peer-reviewed scientific study and the creationist bases his understanding of the subject on a single book, the Bible. The truth in this case is distorted for viewers/readers as the credibility of both perspectives is not equally valid despite being presented as such.
Another way media outlets do a disservice to the truth is when they fob off responsibility for the veracity of their reports by merely quoting press spokespeople, failing to interject any critical analysis of statements made. For a news outlet to merely parrot press statements from authorities without any further investigation reveals certain biases and values. What is revealed is an unquestioning faith in the credibility of "official" statements and/or a desire for the easy reports-itself story that ignores observations and facts that do not fit into the narrative presented to them, this time an exceptionally sensationalistic narrative being passed on to readers and viewers without examination.
So, while I was still in jail, independent media outlets and blogs dubbed the eight people arrested the "UC8", exploring what may have happened beyond what UC was saying about events and examining and debating the nuances and righteousness or lack thereof in protester vandalism, state violence, student demonstrations, and so forth. Word spread that UCPD had arrested an Indybay reporter. The corporate media, on the other hand, for the most part simply republished statements from UC about the horrors of the night before, and it didn't get better over time. UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof was out there pounding the drums every day for every corporate outlet he could, up until no charges were filed by the DA against anyone arrested. Then the drumming stopped.
How exactly was it that Arnold Schwarzeneger had a statement prepared before the first stories hit the press early Saturday? Also appearing unsourced in the earliest corporate reports was news that both Governor Schwarzeneger and Senator Feinstein had called UC's Chancellor and his wife to express concern. The machine had hit the ground running on this one. UC knew that they had no evidence against anyone arrested that night, yet it was full steam ahead demonizing arrestees and exaggerating what had actually happened. UCPD's untrue claim that a mass of demonstrators had "surrounded the mansion" could not be contradicted by the single reporter present at the scene because I was sitting in jail. In fact, only a small number of the demonstrators came anywhere close to the Chancellor's house, and the vandalism was all on one side of the building, lasting not more than probably just three or four minutes. UC's PR machine spun the news any way it wanted to, and the corporate media played right along repeating every hyperbolic claim without question.
UC's press statements heavily leaned on their assertion that only two of the eight arrested were Berkeley students, pushing the "outside agitator" angle. The media dutifully reported that "six nonstudents" were amongst those arrested. In actuality, there were two UC Berkeley students, two UC Davis students, one from City University in New York, a journalist, and just two unaffiliated community members, and no one knows if that small sample of people arrested were representative of the larger mass of demonstrators that night or not. From UC's spin, though, even students from two different UC campuses are inherently wrong to work together as student activists (remember that there was no evidence that anyone arrested had anything to do with the vandalism and most of the demonstrators did nothing more than march and chant), much less students from outside of the privileged world of the UC system. And never mind the canard that local community members who contribute to UC's very existence with tax dollars year after year have no right to be involved in how the pubic university is administered. Talk about divide and conquer. Even the Chancellor's wife was brought out to literally accuse "outside agitators" of disrupting the harmony on campus on the very morning the first arraignments were scheduled for arrestees, when UC knew full well that there was zero evidence and no charges would be filed.
In all, the figures made public for the total damage to light fixtures, potted plants, and other items outside of the house came to less than the bond payment required to get one of the arrestees out of jail. The house/mansion/building is a fortress and there was never any risk of harm to the occupants, no matter how much UC and the corporate media played up that residents "feared for their lives." Undoubtedly, it was disturbing to the Chancellor and his wife to have several vandals in their yard, even for a few minutes, but the couple is amongst the best protected people anywhere. They were never hurt nor were they ever in any physical danger. They have their own police force never more than minutes away at any given time (a police force who in fact shot and killed a woman who had broken in to the same house purportedly to attack then-Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien in 1991). The house is made of stone and features unbreakable windows. While it was dark, things certainly moved fast, and it was impossible for me to see every direction at once, I witnessed no attempts to break into the house and harm the occupants. Nor did I witness any throwing of torches at the house or the police as UC claimed.
You could probably find reasonable excuses for some of the lazy and hyperbolic reporting but certain omissions were especially egregious. Certainly the blame cannot be placed entirely on the corporate media as UC had deliberately and effectively taken one eye-witness reporter out of the equation. But other aspects of fault sit squarely on the shoulders of the corporate media.
Take for instance, the Chronicle which piled onto the story in an unquestioning way from the very beginning, even going so far as to issue an editorial in that Sunday's newspaper condemning those arrested. The presumption of innocence seemed to be glaringly missing from the Chronicle's editorial (it also bought into UC's talking point about outside agitators), and perhaps that is why, when the DA filed no charges against any of the UC8, the previously hyperventilating Chronicle had absolutely noting more to say on the matter, didn't even bother to follow up with one single article reporting that there was no evidence against anyone arrested. The editors of the Chronicle opined that those arrested "should answer in court" but when we did and the DA had nothing, it was total silence at the Chron. Every other corporate outlet, print and broadcast, that had followed the story thus far reported that no charges had been filed. Most, though, fell for the UC ruse that charges were not being filed "yet", as if the DA would not have already charged any of the eight if they had a single shred of evidence against any of them. Failing to connect the dots after the arraignment, not a single media outlet bothered to ask UC on what basis it had even arrested any of the UC8.
If one was to get their news only from the Chronicle, then one would have been falsely led to presume that the eight people arrested might have very well been convicted for their heinous roles in the events of December 11th. As far as I can tell, after the editorial the Chron didn't mention that night again until within the last few weeks, in stories related to UCB sanctions now being meted out against students who protested on campus during the Fall semester. For their obviously intentional lack of forthrightness and honest follow-through on the December 11th story, I nominate the Chronicle to its own special hall of shame. Rightly or wrongly, people expect more of print media than they do of television news, and the Chronicle is considered by many to be an authoritative news source.
I do have three honorable mentions, exceptions to the rule in the onslaught of corporate media coverage of this story: Lisa Amin Gulezian of ABC7, Matt Krupnick of the Bay Area News Group, and Jodi Hernandez of NBC11. [Articles and broadcasts not found online for linking.]
UCPD had deliberately sent reporters in the wrong direction by claiming that demonstrators and vandals that night were protesting budget cuts and fee hikes, not wanting to face questions about their own use of police to brutalize and arrest peaceful protesters over the previous several months. However, Lisa Amin Gulezian of ABC7 on December 12th found one student, admitting off-camera to being a part of the group that vandalized the Chancellor's home, who said the action was "justified and in direct response to the Wheeler arrests." Apparently, this led to one question for Dan Mogulof who skirted the issue by saying UC didn't have information about connections between the vandals and those arrested earlier in the day, but that UCPD was investigating. Unfortunately, later broadcasts on ABC7 reverted to the easier storyline carried by most other corporate outlets that demonstrators that night were protesting fee hikes.
Matt Krupnick likewise managed to ferret out the gist of the demonstration on the night of December 11th, that is that the ire of those protesting, and those vandalizing, was obviously raised by the arrest of the sixty-four sleeping people in Wheeler Hall earlier that very same day. Instead of following UC's lead as others had by simply looking for a few quotes from students or professors who would play into the UC narrative and condemn the vandalism as a confusing or counterproductive way to protest fee hikes, Matt Krupnick managed to find and interview students who rounded out the story by telling him they believed the actions of demonstrators were an "understandable reaction" to the morning arrests. Not that Matt Krupnick condoned the vandalism in his December 15th article, but he was able to tell the fuller story that the demonstration was not simply a random and crazed act against fee hikes as every other media outlet had reported. (Matt Krupnick did lose a little of the shine on his star when he followed up with a story after no charges were filed and he unquestioningly passed on the official story that charges were merely being "delayed".)
Jodi Hernandez gets her propers for being the only reporter present at the well-attended press conference after the arraignment on December 15th that bothered to mention that I had read a statement about UC having wrongfully arrested a journalist. All of the other reporters at the press conference conveniently ignored that aspect of the story.
Now that the truth is beginning to out, perhaps the corporate media who missed the boat before will be interested in telling a more complete story about the events of December 11, 2009, especially since this matter touches on freedom of the press issues one would presume they might appreciate. Or perhaps the large corporate media — at least within the borders of the U.S. — feels safe enough from police abuse, or finds itself too fearful of losing the access authorities grant to friendly news outlets, that no critical examination of statements made by UC Berkeley or news reports at the time will be forthcoming. More important than what the media reports, though, is what will UC Berkeley and UCPD (aka the machine) do and say now that they are being called out for their misdeeds?
Epilogue with Ellipsis
Except for my statement at the arraignment and one interview I granted with JR Valrey of the SF Bay View, I have largely held my journalistic tongue on this, so to speak. At first, I had no choice as UCPD made the decision to take my camera and send me to jail. In the intervening days before my arraignment, I did not know if UCPD's lies would carry any weight with the DA and so I said nothing publicly. Once I was facing no charges, I spent my energies on this trying to get my camera and photographs returned. UC returned my camera, but ignored my pleas to return my photographs. Now that I am pursuing legal recourse via a motion in public court, the time has come for me to finally and fully speak out about the injustices perpetrated by UCPD on December 11th, 2009 and since.
I want to thank the National Lawyers' Guild for their support at my arraignment. I also especially want to extend my deepest gratitude to the good people at the First Amendment Project for their work on this case and for all of the other journalists they have represented since 1992.
And so a motion to quash the ill-gotten search warrant for my camera and photographs has been filed with the Alameda court. I believe it is a strong motion that any sensible person who values truth and a free press over unchecked police powers would grant. A hearing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on May 11, 2010 in Department 115 of the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland. More information will be made available as events develop.
This story is not over yet...