I Was Arrested Covering The Occupy Miami Evacuation by Carlos Miller
Read Carlos Miller’s blog, “Photography is NOT a Crime” by clicking here.
As many of you who follow me on the social networks know, I was arrested Tuesday night while covering the Occupy Miami police evacuation.
I was released Wednesday morning after spending several hours in the Miami-Dade County jail and I spent the next several hours retrieving my possessions from the police department across town and then trying to recover video footage the cops apparently deleted.
I also fielded numerous calls from friends, reporters and supporters offering me their help. And I gave two online interviews, including one on Thomas Hawk’s Photo Talk Plus which lasts more than an hour, and one on a local program called Let’s Talk About it, which is much shorter.
The gist is that I was arrested for refusing to leave a public area, even though hordes of corporate journalists were allowed to remain, including one who recorded my arrest.
I’ve been holding off writing this post in the hopes that I can find the clip that I thought I had shot in the moments before my arrest, but after a very slow download, I have a bunch of unrecognizable MTS files, so now it’s a matter of converting them to see if I retrieved anything from the arrest.
I will post it as soon as I can, but this may take a while.
Photo by Carlos Miller
When I first realized that the clip leading up to my arrest was not included, I thought perhaps I just wasn’t recording. But then I noticed there were several other clips that I know I had recorded that were missing, so it seems as if the cops deleted the last few clips I shot right before my arrest.
However, a television news videographer was on the scene and he recorded my arrest because I saw him pointing the camera directly on me as I was being handcuffed.
But I don’t know what station he is from and I have not seen it used in any of the news clips I’ve seen on the evacuation.
Moments after we had been evacuated from the park with county hall looming behind the officer (photo by Carlos Miller)
I was covering the evacuation for Miami Beach 411 where I’ve been covering the Occupy Miami movement since it began last October.
This is what happened:
Miami-Dade County issued an evacuation notice to Occupy Miami, which had their encampment set up in a park in front of Government Center, which is county hall, since October 15.
The order was that they needed to evacuate by sunset, so the media was all there to catch all the drama.
Most of the activists were complying with the order because they are already focusing their efforts on other issues throughout South Florida, mainly addressing the huge foreclosure problem we have down here.
But six activists decided they were going to stay in defiance. They had barricaded themselves behind some pallets and had linked arms and were prepared to go to jail to make their statement.
Six activists who were ready to subject themselves to arrest did not get arrested (photo by Carlos Miller)
So naturally, my goal was to get as close to these arrests as possible to ensure the cops did not get physically abusive.
At one point, police corralled the media behind yellow police tape, but several of us remained in the park, including a few reporters and a bunch of activists.
Then almost 100 police officers donned in riot gear began surrounding the park while ordering everybody out through a megaphone. Then they started marching towards us with their shields in front of them.
So we all marched backwards as they marched towards us. Many of the activists were taunting, mocking and insulting the cops and I just kept recording as many others did.
They forced us out of the park onto the sidewalk, which is City of Miami jurisdiction. So after several minutes of activists and police squaring off against each other, a multitude of Miami police officers came marching towards us.
Kevin Young of Occupy Miami tries to debate Miami police officer (photo by Carlos Miller)
About 150 cops in riot gear combined then forced the crowd back a few blocks with the activists continuing to dance in front of them and yelling at them.
At one point, police announced that everybody in the block in front of them was under arrest, which prompted the activists to disperse quickly. It was pretty surreal considering how defiant they had been, but I guess they figured the cops were going to make good on their word.
But I was taking my cue from the other journalists in the area, which included a writer for the Miami Herald, a photographer for the Miami Herald and about three videographers from local news stations as well as their respective reporters and a handful of others I did not recognize.
At one point, the cops marched right past those journalists, which clearly indicated they were not among the ones who were going to get arrested.
But I kept moving backwards as the cops moved towards me, even though at this point I was the only one in front of them. My plan was to make a left at the next block and just walk back to my car and go home to edit my video.
But as I rounded the corner, another group of cops in riot gear were marching up.
Seeing how the other journalists were not bothered, I asked if I could walk past them on the sidewalk to get to my car but one of them blocked my way, so I walked back towards the intersection and watched both lines of cops plant themselves on their respective corners.
At this point, the only other way out of the area was to walk underneath the I-95 overpass, which would have placed me alongside the Miami River and completely away from my car.
Standoff between Miami-Dade cops and activists after they forced us out of the park (photo by Carlos Miller)
So I asked one of the officers in riot gear in the first line of cops if I would be allowed to walk past them to get to my car and he ignored me, so I figured the best thing to do is find the commanding officer and explain my situation.
Keep in mind there were several journalists in the area, including several behind the first line of cops on 3rd Ave.
As I asked the officer if she would allow me to walk back to my car, which was at Government Center and she immediately began yelling out “Arrestee! Arrestee!”.
That prompted several cops in riot gear to apprehend me in a very aggressive manner while ordering me to “relax!”.
I told them I was relaxed, that there was no need for them to tackle me. I turned to my left and saw the news videographer recording my arrest, so I lifted my arms to show the world that I was not resisting.
The woman cop demanded to know if I had any drugs or weapons, which I said no, but she kept asking and I kept saying no.
I told them I was a journalist as if all the camera gear wasn’t an indicator of that. She told me that I was getting arrested because I had defied their orders to leave the area, so I asked about the other journalists, but she didn’t respond to that.
I was charged with obstruction of justice and resisting arrest without violence, even though the cops wrote that I was “taken into custody without incident” on the arrest report. They also said that I was ordered to leave the area for my “safety.”
Then I learned that the cops screwed up and did not include the statute number for the obstruction charge, so I am now only facing the resisting arrest charge, which seems to be the story of my life.
If you remember, I was convicted of resisting arrest in 2008 after I was acquitted of several other charges stemming from my 2007 arrest for photographing cops, even though it doesn’t make sense to be convicted of resisting if there are no other underlying charges to actually resist.
I did have that conviction reversed in an appeal and the state attorney’s office chose not to pursue the matter.
Then I was charged with a single count of resisting arrest in 2009 after photographing a Miami Beach cop against his wishes. That case was dropped when he failed to show up to trial twice.
And now I am facing a single count of resisting arrest, even though the arrest report clearly states I was taken into custody “without incident.”
So it obviously doesn’t take too much to make these cops look like idiots.
Five Occupy Miami activists were also arrested, but none of the original six who were willing to get arrested. Two of them were charged with felony inciting a riot after they were dancing in the streets while the cops marched towards them.
And another three were charged with loitering and prowling after they were sitting in their pick-up truck a few blocks away waiting to transport fellow activists. Their charges have since been dropped.
I’ve included a map below highlighting the details of my arrest, including where my car was parked, where I was arrested, where the other journalists were standing and where they apparently expected me to walk.
View Carlos Miller’s arrest map in a larger map
UPDATE: This is the cop who had me arrested. I took this screen shot from the footage they had deleted after I had recovered it. I’m still working on this recovery but it’s looking good so far.