Oakland Unified School District Police Chief Art Michel in Altercation With Photographer
From the Oakland Tribune:
“While filming a protest by students outside the Fruitvale BART station today, an Oakland Tribune videographer was detained at about 10:15 a.m. and her tape was confiscated by Oakland Unified School District police.
The videographer was placed in back of a patrol car for about a half-hour and released without citation.
The protest was part of a larger rally by students who were headed to San Francisco for a immigration rights event.
Troy Flint, the spokesman for the Oakland school district, said OUSD Police Chief Art Michel was trailing the student-protesters as they made their way down International Boulevard.
Flint said Michel reported that Tribune videographer Jane Tyska, who was filming from the street at the time, elbowed the police car as Michel drove by.
“The officer confiscated the tape as alleged evidence of the photographer’s interference with his ability to conduct his responsibilities, which in this case was protecting student-protesters,” Flint said.
Tyska said the officer grazed her with his car as she was walking backwards, videotaping protesters in the middle of the street. He then stopped his car, began yelling profanities at her and accused her of hitting his car and inciting a riot, Tyska said.
“I immediately identified myself as a photographer for the Oakland Tribune, showed him my press pass, and said I was just doing my job, but he continued yelling and screaming profanities and said he was going to arrest me.”
“I asked the officer why it was illegal for me to shoot from the street and he said it was a ‘moving crime scene’. To my knowledge, there is no such thing, and photographers are always in the middle of the action at protests.”
It’s disappointing to me that a police chief would behave so badly with a photographer if these allegations are true. Especially when photographing something politically charged like a protest I’d expect someone of Michel’s seniority to respond more diplomatically. It sounds to me like another power hungry cop looking to abuse a photographer who dared to challenge his authority. Photography is not a crime. I’m especially disappointed that if these allegations are true that a police chief would use profanity when dealing with a street photographer.
I hope that Michel is investigated and if these allegations are true, disciplined for his bad behavior.
For what it’s worth, I covered some of the same protesters after they made their way to the immigration offices on Sansome Street in San Francisco later that day and had no issue when photographing them or the police in SF whatsoever. I’ve found the SFPD generally to be pretty good about allowing photographers pretty much unfettered access when covering political protests in San Francisco.