Trespassing in public: RVA Police break up the occupation and arrest our photographer.

Posted by: – Nov 01, 2011


I had no political agenda when I arrived at Kanawa Plaza at about one thirty in the morning. I'd been shooting a party that night; I was reasonably well paid to photograph costumed party-goers at an extremely popular local hot-spot, and politics were the furthest thing from my mind. It was Preston's information of imminent documentary opportunities that hastened my retreat from central heat to a thirty-five degree autumn night. I have written many more words about my encounter with the Richmond City Police this morning, however, I feel it would be a mistake for me to publish them currently, as I have charges pending with said police force regarding exactly what transpired. I am confident that the photographic and video record will speak in my favor. The officers were generally respectful of my person and property, as evidenced by the photograph below, which I took while my hands were bound behind my back in matching, connected steel bracelets. UPDATE: I found out today that the Virginia ACLU is taking my case. Thanks everyone for all the support.

My hands were literally cuffed. The police were nice enough to let me hang on to my camera (no irony attempted here, to be clear: outside of the arresting officer, whose decisions I actively question, the police were well mannered and respectful of my person).

We left the bar shortly after 1am, motivated by SMS that Occupy Richmond was being raided by police. Upon arrival, we were threatened with arrest several times while standing on city sidewalks on the perimeter, not within, Kanawha Plaza. After acquiescing to the unlawful requests of police, we moved to a corner we were informed was the designated location for the press. Ian then attempted to cross the street, at a crosswalk, and was apprehended for trespassing.

Our local police department, searching and destroying tents.

I honestly think these are good people, and they are certainly part of the 99%; RCPD may pay well, but they aren't making millionaires out of our force. It's only after they put on the uniform that they are forced into basic, slack-jawed thuggery.

This wasn't supposed to be about me, dammit. I was there to photograph the police dissemble the occupation, and therefore what many call the trampling of the first amendment. The people assembled in a (literal) public square, were paid lip service to by local authorities, and on the last morning of October, the local police were forced into thuggery by an order from on high. Again, I was not at Kanawa Plaza to make a political statement, I wanted to take some pictures... and instead, I got arrested for crossing the fucking street. The official charge is of trespassing. There were people on both sides of the crosswalk where I was arrested, and none of them were arrested. But none of them had cameras, either.

They're watching you, too.

On public, city property, not legally restricted to particular hours. The following photographs were taken before, during, and after his arrest, which was evidently predicated on a fear of media documentation held by law enforcement officials. Immediately following his arrest, I attempted to retrieve his camera from him, was physically restrained by police, and subsequently asked by the officer in charge if I would be willing to try to calm those relegated to the corner allocated for the media, in exchange for said camera. No deal.

Posted without comment. Or intent.

Ian was released on summons for a crime he did not commit. These are the images that resulted from this confrontation. Freedom of the press is not a designated street corner, it is the eyes of the people watching authority, and the voice of the people speaking truth to it.

Whatever your political bias, this is an undeniable violation of our constitutional right to monitor the actions of our government. This is unquestionable evidence that we live in a police state. This is the question your American values are posing to you, right now: What does freedom actually mean to you?

Ian gets arrested. Photo courtesy of WTVR CBS-6 News.

words in italics are by Ian M. Graham, non-italicized words are by S. Preston Duncan.