MTA police detain activist for refusing to show ID at anti-bailout demonstration

Originally posted at the blog of bile:

Last night, October 21st, 2008, the Greater NYC Campaign for Liberty, some members of the Manhattan Libertarian Party and other liberty activists demonstrated in Grand Central Station. A bit of theater. A breadline containing a decent amount of individuals with others as satellites handing out literature, discussing the bailout with passer bys and filming the event. I was in the latter group. Not 10 minutes into the demonstration officers started speaking with Russ, requesting our reasons for being their, what exactly we were doing and I’d imagine if we had a permit.

I was at one point, not caught on video, threatened by the officer seen walking away from Russ at approximately 48 seconds into the video. A very loud and angry, similar to: “Back up! Get away from me!” I was merely walking up to inquire to what the problem was and why Russ was being engaged. After talking with Russ briefly I went around to the other side to get a different angle and hand out more literature. I soon noticed another officer appear (about 1 minute in) and start approaching the breadline. You can see at about 1:04 the first officer points me out to the new cop.

At 1:45 I’m approached by the first officer and told to stop filming the officers. The officer in particular was 5 or more feet from me and I was attempting to pick up the dialog in the rather loud station. I was not at any point noticed by the officer as I was completely behind him so there was no possibility of my existence being an interference. There were others standing closer who were not filming who were not harassed. I was left alone only because he become distracted by another officer or his radio. As Russ was being handcuffed I believe it’s the original officer who threatens to lock me up too if I don’t “take a walk.” So I took a walk. Following closely Russ and the two officers who were bringing him to the holding cell. I unfortunately stopped recording while in the police office talking with the officer at the main desk though I got some of it.

It one point an officer threatens to bring out the K-9 unit to sniff all our bags. A short time one happens to just walk right by all of us and our belongings and does not react.

At 6:30 the officer who was talking with Andrew asked if he could help me. I inform him I’m a member of the group there implying my reason for being next to him… though I think obviously the problem was my filming. When you see the camera go from facing the floor to the side is when the officer grabbed my arm motioning to either take my camera or start to place cuffs on me. He too was distracted by what appeared to be a superior officer calling on the radio. I hand the camera off to Andrew in case he came back to detain me. Listen to the radio. “You were told what to do. THAT’S ENOUGH. OK?! Do what you got to do!”

I kept the camera going while trying to act as it wasn’t. We were told the office was not a waiting room even though there had been people in there waiting and instructed to leave. Shortly after Russ is released.

Once we left the station after a couple minutes we noticed most of the officers involved in the incident standing just inside the doorway staring and talking among themselves. I wasn’t quick enough, nor would it had gone over well, to record them watching us but I was able to get them walking away. A rather good ending to the video I think.

Take aways:

  1. Don’t carry ‘official’ state identification when doing these things. That way when you tell them you don’t have ID to show them you’re telling the truth. In fact I now plan to not carry my state ID with me on a regular basis.
  2. Don’t ever stop recording. These things don’t take long and it’s better to have too much footage and have to spend more time editing then missing some of the good parts.
  3. I had my Free Talk Live press pass on me but forgot to wear it. However, it’s my ‘official’ one with all my information on it. I need to get another one printed with basic info which doesn’t give away my full identity.

We plan on doing this again in the next couple weeks. We’ll see how it goes.

Not that we very much care but if someone is familiar with the laws regarding the actions we took please post the relevant statutes in the comments. Thank you.

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