The police clearly don't like their actions being recorded and are scared of the power of the photos and video footage taken by independent journalist (and don't forget with indymedia we can all be journalists). This fear is demonstrated by this quote by Cheif Supt Davies of the Mets Public Order Branch published in the Police Review in 1997:
"Like all forms of modern protest, experience has shown environmentalist to be highly organised and media friendly. It is almost standard now that the media will give protesters cameras, both video and still, to record a protester's eye view. This would almost certainly result in a significant propaganda victory for the protesters as they are selective about what they release".
However it is the police who are selective, selecting where and what can be filmed. During protests to save greenbelt land from contruction projects in Manchester and Birmingham the police erected fences around the sites and banned all journalists. An observation platform well away from the action was erected with views of only a tiny section of the forest was constructed by officers leaving the actions of balliffs and police unobserved during the evictions.
Obviously the power of the alt media is recognised by the police and frequently those with cameras will be the first targetted for arrest or harrasment.
Ex undercurrents journalist Roddy Mansfield (who now works or Sky News) was arrested for forgetting his press card PIN while covering a protest in London. While reporting on the Manchester Airport, HTV producer John Fraser Williams, sustained two broken ribs after being beaten by police.
Photographer Nick Cobbing was arrested in Oxford merely for leaving a demonstration. The animal rights protest he was covering was covered by a section 12 order and when it came time to leave he told a senior police officer him his NUJ press card. However, shortly after he was arrested.
There is an almost endless list of such stories: David Sims freelance photographer detained for 11 hours, being arrested for breach of the peace at Greenpeace demo against arrival of genetically modified soya beans into Liverpool Docks. Was arrested in spite of repeatedly showing his NUJ card. Police returned camera, but kept roll of film.
In a more recent case in the UK, a freelance journalist was arrested just minutes after filming an arrest that occured during a protest outside a meeting of G8 environment ministers taking place in London. It was reported afterwards that the police kept the camera and footage but have since dropped charges.
April 12, 2005
Videos Challenge Accounts of Convention Unrest (The New York Times)
By JIM DWYER
Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the
arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down
the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.
"We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and
screamed," the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. "I had one of
his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own."
Accused of inciting a riot and resisting arrest, Mr. Kyne was the
first of the 1,806 people arrested in New York last summer during
the Republican National Convention to take his case to a jury. But one day
after Officer Wohl testified, and before the defense called a single
witness, the prosecutor abruptly dropped all charges.
During a recess, the defense had brought new information to the
prosecutor. A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne
agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the
library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was
nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen
taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library
against whom he signed complaints.
A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive,
lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer
observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over
precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the
For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings
provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the
charges against them could not be proved, according to defense
lawyers and prosecutors.
Among them was Alexander Dunlop, who said he was arrested while
going to pick up sushi.
Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same
police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial
had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop
behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more
complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop's lawyer,
prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a
technician had cut the material by mistake.
Seven months after the convention at Madison Square Garden, criminal
charges have fallen against all but a handful of people arrested
that week. Of the 1,670 cases that have run their full course, 91
percent ended with the charges dismissed or with a verdict of not
guilty after trial. Many were dropped without any finding of
wrongdoing, but also without any serious inquiry into the
circumstances of the arrests, with the Manhattan district attorney's
office agreeing that the cases should be "adjourned in contemplation of
So far, 162 defendants have either pleaded guilty or were convicted after
trial, and videotapes that bolstered the prosecution's case
played a role in at least some of those cases, although prosecutors could
not provide details.
Besides offering little support or actually undercutting the
prosecution of most of the people arrested, the videotapes also
highlight another substantial piece of the historical record: the
Police Department's tactics in controlling the demonstrations,
parades and rallies of hundreds of thousands of people were largely free
of explicit violence.
Throughout the convention week and afterward, Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg said that the police issued clear warnings about blocking
streets or sidewalks, and that officers moved to arrest only those who
defied them. In the view of many activists - and of many people who
maintain that they were passers-by and were swept into dragnets
indiscriminately thrown over large groups - the police strategy
appeared to be designed to sweep them off the streets on technical grounds
as a show of force.
"The police develop a narrative, the defendant has a different
story, and the question becomes, how do you resolve it?" said Eileen
Clancy, a member of I-Witness Video, a project that assembled
hundreds of videotapes shot during the convention by volunteers for use by
Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, said that videotapes often do
not show the full sequence of events, and that the public should not rush
to criticize officers simply because their recollections of
events are not consistent with a single videotape. The Manhattan
district attorney's office is reviewing the testimony of Officer
Wohl at the request of Lewis B. Oliver Jr., the lawyer who
represented Mr. Kyne in his arrest at the library.
The Police Department maintains that much of the videotape that has
surfaced since the convention captured what Mr. Browne called the
department's professional handling of the protests and parades. "My guess
is that people who saw the police restraint admired it," he
Video is a useful source of evidence, but not an easy one to manage,
because of the difficulties in finding a fleeting image in hundreds of
hours of tape. Moreover, many of the tapes lack index and time
markings, so cuts in the tape are not immediately apparent.
That was a problem in the case of Mr. Dunlop, who learned that his tape
had been altered only after Ms. Clancy found another version of the same
tape. Mr. Dunlop had been accused of pushing his bicycle
into a line of police officers on the Lower East Side and of
resisting arrest, but the deleted parts of the tape show him calmly
approaching the police line, and later submitting to arrest without
A spokeswoman for the district attorney, Barbara Thompson, said the
material had been cut by a technician in the prosecutor's office.
"It was our mistake," she said. "The assistant district attorney
wanted to include that portion" because she initially believed that it
supported the charges against Mr. Dunlop. Later, however, the
arresting officer, who does not appear on the video, was no longer sure of
the specifics in the complaint against Mr. Dunlop.
In what appeared to be the most violent incident at the convention
protests, video shot by news reporters captured the beating of a man on a
motorcycle - a police officer in plainclothes - and led to the arrest of
one of those involved, Jamal Holiday. After eight months in jail, he
pleaded guilty last month to attempted assault, a
low-level felony that will be further reduced if he completes
probation. His lawyer, Elsie Chandler of the Neighborhood Defender Service
of Harlem, said that videos had led to his arrest, but also provided
support for his claim that he did not realize the man on
the motorcycle was a police officer, reducing the severity of the
Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said that despite many civilians with
cameras who were nearby when the officer was attacked, none of the
material was turned over to police trying to identify the
assailants. Footage from a freelance journalist led police to Mr.
Holiday, he said.
In the bulk of the 400 cases that were dismissed based on
videotapes, most involved arrests at three places - 16th Street near Union
Square, 17th Street near Union Square and on Fulton Street - where police
officers and civilians taped the gatherings, said
Martin R. Stolar, the president of the New York City chapter of the
National Lawyers Guild. Those tapes showed that the demonstrators
had followed the instructions of senior officers to walk down those
streets, only to have another official order their arrests.
Ms. Thompson of the district attorney's office said, "We looked at videos
from a variety of sources, and in a number of cases, we have moved to