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.

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

  1. October 23, 2009 at 6:27 am

    The outcome of the battle may well depend on the hope he can inspire, regardless of the odds. ,

  2. October 22, 2009 at 7:19 am

    If you’ve never heard Radiohead, you’re missing out. ,

  3. April 15, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    The style of writing is quite familiar . Did you write guest posts for other blogs?

  4. October 25, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    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.

    Never lie to a police officer. Either keep your mouth shut or tell as little of the truth as you think will keep you from arrest. Be polite at all times…it pisses them off more.

    If you do not carry ID you will almost certainly NOT be released with a citation if one is forthcoming. You will be arrested, detained and transported to some station for processing before release. Tis is the price IF you choose to be without ID. SO think before you follow the above advice, because most cops would rather cite and release rather than cite and process for civil and misdemeanors.

    Secondly, if you carry a camera you should have a spare tape, CDR or memory stick that can be quickly swapped and handed to someone in case you get something juicy that you think the cops might confiscate. If you can make the switch unobserved before they come for your film you can have a serious highlight later.

  5. Archie1954
    October 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    If you are required to show your ID to a police officer when asked then show it, if you are not required to do so then you’ll have to decide on the spot if you will accede to his request or not. Police are presumed to know basic law with respect to what they can and what they can’t demand. If they proceed to use strong arm tactics illegally then they are assaulting you and you have a right to lodge a complaint and/or a lawsuit. But the best way to handle such things is to complain to the police commissioner and the mayor and the media. It is the police chief who should be on the carpet when his officers screw up. He is supposed to have professionally trained them and instilled discipline to prevent such hamhandedness. His job should be on the line when his officers misbehave.

  6. October 23, 2008 at 10:10 am

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