Mimesis Law
25 July 2017

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.

Why?

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.

7 Comments on this post.

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  • Scott Jacobs
    19 February 2016 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    Anyone have the name of the officer who apparently has no idea what the rules are, even after court rulings telling her?

    I might want to spend some of my Spring break there. Gotta pay for college somehow…

  • Aaron
    19 February 2016 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    I hope she gets deposed by a Joe Jamail type. That should teach her what it feels like to really not be in control. And I hope the deposition is taped. And I hope the tape is leaked. This will stop when they learn that they’ll never be able to hide it and never be able to outrun it.

  • Avi S. Adelman
    20 February 2016 at 9:47 am - Reply

    My thanks for writing this article about my confrontation with DART police. Allow me to add a few updates…

    – DART issued their letter by email on Tuesday, and it arrived at my house on Friday (certified mail). Moments after I received the email, I demanded they cancel a NO TRESPASS WARNING which would keep me off the Rosa Parks Plaza and the West End Station area (the hotbed of the K2 issue). They have not answered the request.

    – In re the bar owner who sued me – The suit was dropped for lack of prosecution after the bar owner was arrested for transporting several pounds of methamphetamine.

    http://www.barkingdogs.org/news/content/Lost-Society-lawsuit-against-BD-tossed-pile-meth-covered-towels-set-fire-and-dismissed

    – In re the officer suffering a heart attack on the Santa Fe Trail – That incident occurred on March 27, 2015. The Dallas Police Department is STILL investigating my numerous complaints for First Amendment violations and unprofessional behavior by several officers (most of which is on tape). The City would not release bodycam footage for five months, claiming it had medical activities on it. No, it had a cop yelling GET HIM OUT.

    The Dallas Observer published a great piece about the bodycam issue –

    http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/barking-dog-avi-adelman-a-downed-dallas-cop-and-the-limits-of-body-camera-transparency-7569753

    Another confrontation with a DPD officer with a big mouth in November was investigated, then closed, then reopened again. It seems the department is afraid to deal with the issue of photography in public and punish officers who decide they can pick and choose what parts of the Constitution they swore to uphold.

    I do not live around Lower Greenville anymore. My attention is on the ‘right to photograph’ issue. I am a member of the National Press Photographers Association and have organized training events on the issue for law enforcement personnel. Some of it sticks and some of it doesn’t. My website is http://therighttophotographinpublic.com/

    • Greg Prickett
      20 February 2016 at 10:34 am - Reply

      Avi,

      Thank you very much for filling us in on what I left out of the article.

      I remember your battles to get the drunks out of the residential neighborhoods around Lower Greenville from years ago, and the SMU fraternity (I can’t remember if it was the Sig Ep fraternity or the Sigma Chi frat) that tried to intimidate you without success. DART really stepped in it this time.

      I’ve always admired your resolve and determination.

      Greg

  • dm
    20 February 2016 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the excellent article. That this issue is still being “fought” over in 2016 borders on the absurd. Photography/videography activists have been pursuing and winning these actions for years and, yet, there are still pockets of officers who haven’t gotten the message. There is a YouTube video of an activist video recording the Seal Beach jail and a sergeant with the SBPD confronts him and tells him he cannot record the jail from the public sidewalk. The video was from just a few days ago. Unbelievable.

  • Follow Up: The Arrest of Avi Adelman in Dallas
    26 August 2016 at 9:40 am - Reply

    […] photographs of Dallas firefighters treating a K2 overdose at a bus stop in downtown Dallas. I wrote about the arrest here, and how the arrest was crap. Adelman commented on the column, and I’ve kept in contact with […]

  • The Takeaway From The Year That Was
    10 January 2017 at 8:15 am - Reply

    […] February, Dallas activist Avi Adelman was arrested on bogus charges while he photographed an incident at a Dallas Area Rapid Transit […]