The Arrest of An Activist, Avi Adelman
Feb. 19, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Avi Adelman is a Dallas activist. He has been for years, taking on City Hall about a bar district known as Lower Greenville (from the street it is on) because he lived on a residential street in the area and the drunks kept peeing in his bushes at two in the morning. So he fought city hall, hoping to get them to require sufficient parking for the bars, for increased police in the area at night, and other suggestions that would help the residents of the neighborhood around Lower Greenville.
The thing about Avi is that once he became an activist, it got in his blood, so to speak, and he has remained one ever since. He’s not afraid to take on the giants of the area. In 2002, the Dallas Morning News threatened to sue him because he deep-linked to one of their stories on his blog, Barking Dogs.
The traditional news media doesn’t like him, but he’s been effective. You see, his style of operation is to take photographs. To get information from confidential sources and to publish them in his blog. He doesn’t pull punches, and the bar community doesn’t like him much either, with one bar owner suing him for defamation.* The police don’t like him too much, after he photographed a police officer being treated for a heart attack.†
So on Tuesday, February 9th, Avi was near Rosa Parks Plaza and heard a call about a catatonic man, so he went to the scene. Once there, he started to take pictures from a good distance back. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) police have a reputation of not respecting photographer’s rights, and Avi had been instrumental in getting the “no photography” signs removed from DART property.
So a female DART police officer told Avi that he would have to stop taking pictures, that it was a private matter. Avi told her (correctly) that he had a right to take pictures of public officials performing their duty in public, that he wasn’t interfering (no flash, 1200 ASA high speed setting). She didn’t like being told that she was wrong.
So she arrested Avi for Criminal Trespass.
And the immediate press statement from the DART public information officer was:
We have reviewed the exchange and believe the officers acted properly. Dallas Fire Rescue asked him to move. He refused. Paramedics asked us to ask him to move several times. He failed to comply, and that’s why he was arrested. Photography is allowed in our public spaces but we also expect people to comply with the instructions of a police officer. This is especially true when paramedics tell us the actions of a photographer affect their ability to provide care.
If the paramedics were distracted and being interfered with, it is certainly reasonable to ask someone to move back. Only that is not what happened. The Dallas Fire Rescue (DFR) statement immediately tried to distance their personnel from the arrest.
At no point were any requests made to ask Mr. Adelman to leave the scene and/or stop taking pictures. In addition, there were no requests made to (DART) officers to ask him to leave the scene and/or stop taking pictures.
You know, it seems to me that DFR sort of threw DART under the bus, so to speak.
And on February 16th, the DART Police Chief basically threw the officer under the bus, while trying to protect the department from a lawsuit. In the letter sent to Avi, the chief said that because the officer violated DART policy on photography, they were not going to file charges with the District Attorney’s Office—but the officer was still within her authority to arrest.
This arrest was made for one reason, and one reason only.
Avi did not bow down and comply with the unlawful orders of the officer. He knew that he was within his rights to take pictures, and told her to pound sand.
Officers have to maintain control, and nothing pisses them off more than being told to pound sand, so to speak, so they will try to come up with something else.
Had Avi truly been interfering, he could have been charged with that, but even this officer was smart enough to figure that he wasn’t interfering. So she came up with a BS charge of trespassing.
Because she needed to be in control.
Now she will likely be subjected to the stress of a civil rights lawsuit. DART may settle and spare her the stress of trial, but they won’t settle in time to spare her the stress of being served or being deposed.
She should be subjected to the stress of days off without pay, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. There is likely going to be nothing of consequence that happens to her.
So the next time someone mouths off to her, and she feels the need to control? She will like do the same thing.
And the next Avi will go to jail.
Maybe from the same plaza, the one dedicated to Rosa Parks, who also stood up for her civil rights. It seems appropriate in a way.
*The case was later closed with no apparent action against Adelman.
†The fact that Avi’s complaint against Sgt. Ray Gonzales for Ray sending Avi a profanity laced email resulted in Ray being fired probably doesn’t help either.