As I was sipping coffee and reading a story in the Times about New York’s latest iteration of its gun laws, a twit by Brian Tannebaum alerted me to yet another confrontation between Carlos Miller and guys in uniform who are of the view that they get to make up rules and then enforce them with force. I shift gears.
For anyone unaware of who Carlos Miller is, he’s a Miami photographer who has challenged the locals by asserting his right to take photos and videos of anything in public he pleases. He has a blog called Photography is not a crime, PINAC. Carlos has been twice prosecuted for disobeying people in uniform who ordered him not to take pictures. He was been twice acquitted.
Given the amount of discussion online about the right to video things in public, you might think that the message has been sufficiently spread that police, or in this case, security guards who only get to eat unglazed donuts, would be aware of the fact that people have the right to video anything that happens in public. The flip side is that there is no law prohibiting videotaping, and they have no authority to tell anybody not to do so.
You would also think that the name Carlos Miller would be fairly well known in the neighborhood, having twice beaten back efforts to shut him down, and having a pending lawsuit for the violation of his civil rights. If you did, you would be wrong on all counts.
Carlos’ name appears here with some regularity. We’re not old friends, and I’ve never had a cup of coffee with Carlos. But what he does, and what he has suffered for, is what marketers love to call “disruptive technology.” The pervasive use of video, which gave rise to my “But For Video” series of posts, caused a fundamental change in our understanding of what really happens on the street, without the prying eyes of judges, lawyers and jurors.
It wasn’t that we learned that cops were always lying or that defendants were always innocent. It was that we learned that sometimes cops lied and sometimes defendant did nothing wrong. It was that we learned that most of the time, the sanitized testimony of police officers of their conduct and words toward the public was false, even if not false enough to negate an arrest or conviction. What we learned from the video taken by the public was that we had been living a lie.
Today, no judge can look at the testimony of a cop, or the claims of a defendant that the beating he received, the words put into his mouth, the conduct attributed to him, without realizing that there was a fairly good chance that nothing happened quite the way he’s being told. At least no judge who is being honest with himself, and hasn’t chosen to hide beneath the bench and pretend that Sheriff Andy is still in charge.
This is happening because of the disruptive technology of video. But it’s also happening because guys like Carlos Miller are out there, willing to take the hit time after time to preserve the right to videotape guys in uniform, even when they demand he stop and use force to make him. Let’s face facts, while most of us are happy to stand atop the pedestal of civil rights when we’re surrounded by the applauding throngs, few of us want to be the guy on the train platform surrounded by uniforms who want to put their hands around our necks. That’s where Carlos comes in.
Last night, Carlos Miller was again accosted, this time on the Miami-Dade Metrorail by men in the employ of 50States security, hired to work the train stations.
Carlos describes what happened:
Eventually, he was released with a $100 citation for making loud noise. I suspect that Carlos may not send in a check to settle the score.
As you will see in the above video, they tried to push me down the escalator and I shoved back in order to defend myself, which prompted at least three security guards to pounce on me, including one security guard named R. Myers who violently choked me to the point where I thought I was going to die.
While this may not be huge in the scheme of civil rights abuses, beatings, harm, as he lived to tell about it which is more than others can say, Carlos’ persistence at the forefront of this disruptive technology, this means by which everything we’ve ever been told, ever believed, about the interaction of police and the public is, for the most part, a lie, cannot be underestimated.
But for video, the system would shrug off every claim of a beating, a lie, a set up, a murder, that didn’t have the Pope and few cardinals as witnesses. But for Carlos, and his willingness to be strangled for the benefit of the rest of us, there might be no But For Video.