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OPINION: Jaywalking ticket for doing my job
The Villager, New York on May 26, 2019
New York City is about change. Our politicians changed the rules and my part of the Lower East Side went from a neighborhood to an entertainment zone. An entertainment zone opened up all kinds of loopholes, allowing bars and liquor licenses to force out most of the small independent businesses that feed and make up a community.
The entertainment we got is a wild, out-of-control, spring break-type environment. Besides the destruction of a community, another downside is the kids passed out on the street, getting sick all over the place. The worst-case scenario is the wrong mixture of alcohol and drugs leading to death.
It is our right to safeguard our community in the different ways we can. In America, we have the right to photograph the street. As an American interested in free speech, I work to hold my own line on free-speech rights. One recent, almost ludicrous — silly, for sure — violation of my free rights was by two cops who took exception to me photographing a person being put into an ambulance.
One of them started out by giving me some abuse, like, “Have you never seen a drunk person before?” and “What are you doing? Trying to make some fame on social media?”
Excuse me? I thought he was a cop and not a social critic. He has no idea who I am or what I am doing. After the patient was loaded into the ambulance, the cops were still a little wound up. I started to walk out of the street. The traffic had been blocked by the ambulance. One cop pulled my jacket. As we crossed the street, there was a cop on each side of me. One said, “I can give you a ticket for jaywalking.” I said, “Do whatever you think you should.” In other words, do not tell me my job and I will not tell you yours.
Then I got a little show. A number of cop cars rolled up. The supervisor came and oversaw the ordeal. So the cop using his badge as a weapon punished me by giving me a go-to-court ticket. Stupid? I think so.
We have all witnessed people drunk and passed out. But I do not remember an incident where a licensed establishment served so much alcohol so quickly, that the person needed to be hospitalized. But there have been deaths caused by the mixture of drugs and alcohol. As a member of this community, I think I have a right to know if some licensed establishment is allowing kids to drink this way, or if drugs are being sold along with the booze.
The cop said the patient was drunk. So why the ambulance? Why the paranoia? If they had said nothing, it would have been just another situation. Now it is an incident.
The question is how to use this incident to teach the cops something about free speech and the fact we have the rights to document the street. We are not a fascist country and the cops are wrong to destroy my rights by using their badge as a weapon. Yes, I could jack them up; take the case to trail and/or go to the Civilian Complaint Review Board and waste their time, like they are wasting mine.
Yes, this is a silly fight. But it does reinforce my belief in the system and makes me appreciate that I have — as an immigrant, as an artist, as a documentarian — civil rights. It causes me to think back over my years in New York City and confirms for me, I have lived the American Dream.
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Charles · 7 weeks ago : If you didn't get in their way of the performance of their duties, you should be allowed to photograph/record whatever you want.
chris flash · 7 weeks ago : NAZIS COME IN ALL CREEDS AND COLORS!!
guest · 7 weeks ago : Said the guy who supported liquor licenses for Ludlow House in opposition to the rest of his neighbors. It's all about you, dude. Just sad.
Nick Zedd · 7 weeks ago : You don´t need permission to exercise your Constitutional rights. Freedom of the press means you can photograph anything you want in public without some pig interfering with you. There is no such thing as a good cop. Never stop resisting anti-Amerikan government repression.
Chris Iconicide · 6 weeks ago : Yes I believe drugs were involved; the new face of NYC nightlife is populated by moneyed invaders who favor designer chemicals. These individuals pump more money into the local economy than actual members of the community, and so law enforcement has been groomed to handle them with kid gloves - therefore in that situation you were indeed an outsider disruptive to business as usual. As this malignant infestation progresses you will find this increasingly to be the case. Here's a couple lines from Iconicide's song "Just Dead Bodies (the Ballad of 5th and C)", from our 2016 album Give Me Extinction Or Give Me Death!