VIDEO: Was peaceful Occupy activist arrested in downtown Mpls just for filming police?
|Cummer, shown being arrested during the May 11 demonstration, says he was singled out because he was filming police.|
"You decide to leave, if not, you're going to be arrested," one officer tells him. "Are you going to leave?" the officer asks. Moments later, the officer directs Cummer to place his "hands behind your back" and handcuffs him.
Cummer was ostensibly arrested for blocking traffic, but at the time about 100 people were milling in the intersection of Hennepin & 8th. Traffic was going to remain blocked whether Cummer stood in the street or not. "The real issue was that I'd been filming them," Cummer says.
"The police shouldn't be doing that," Cummer said, adding that the last time he was arrested was 20 years ago when a group he was affiliated with protested at an Aquatennial parade.
Cummer, who has taken part in Minneapolis Occupy protests since last year, said he believes he was the only person arrested during the May 11 demonstration.
"I was singled out for filming the police, but it's very important to film them -- they do a lot of things wrong," he added.
The issue of both citizen and professional journalists being arrested for filming police is hardly unique to Minneapolis. Just today, MSNBC published a report entitled "'First Amendment rights can be terminated': When cops, cameras don't mix" that contains the following nugget -- since last September, 70 journalists have been arrested while filming public protests.
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the National Press Photographers Association writes that "the First Amendment has come under assault on the streets of America... Police have arrested dozens of journalists and activists simply for attempting to document political protests in public spaces."
Despite the string of arrests, the MSNBC report notes that "First Amendment law is clear: Citizens in public spaces have a right to film things they see in plain sight. Courts have repeatedly upheld that right in high-profile cases."
Following his arrest, Cummer went to Mayor RT Rybak's office to try and show the footage of the incident to somebody working in the mayor's office. Much to his surprise, Cummer ran into Rybak himself as he approached the office and was able to show the mayor the footage of his arrest.
|Officers, plastic handcuffs in tow, approach Cummer moments before he was arrested.|
According to Cummer, Rybak told him to contact another city employee to share his concerns about the arrest, but Cummer told the mayor he wouldn't do that because he doesn't trust the city. "My feeling is the mayor very much wants this to just go away," Cummer said.
The footage also reveals that police gave Cummer an unduly hard time about his proof of identification. Cummer presented police with a passport card, but officers gave him grief for not having a Minnesota ID.
"There better be something else besides that!" an officer says, referring to the passport. "You got no ID, you'll go to jail."
Cummer, in fact, never went to jail, and it appears his citation for blocking traffic has also mysteriously disappeared from the city's records. He says he's repeatedly contacted the Hennepin County District Court in the three weeks since his arrest to get an update on if and when he'll have to appear in court, but was recently told by a court employee that they can't find a record of his citation. Perhaps Mayor Rybak isn't the only one who wants the whole incident to just go away.
Without further ado, here's the raw footage of Cummer's arrest: