Friday, August 29, 2008

Denver police making the law up as they go along

ABC Reporter Arrested in Denver Taking Pictures of Senators, Big Donors

Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel. Police on the scene refused to tell ABC lawyers the charges against the producer, Asa Eslocker, who works with the ABC News investigative unit.

A cigar-smoking Denver police sergeant, accompanied by a team of five other officers, first put his hands on Eslocker's neck, then twisted the producer's arm behind him to put on handcuffs.

A police official later told lawyers for ABC News that Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order. He also said the arrest followed a signed complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel.

Eslocker was put in handcuffs and loaded in the back of a police van which headed for a nearby police station. Video taken at the scene shows a man, wearing the uniform of a Boulder County sheriff, ordering Eslocker off the sidewalk in front of the hotel, to the side of the entrance. The sheriff's officer is seen telling Eslocker the sidewalk is owned by the hotel. Later, he is seen pushing Eslocker off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, forcing him to the other side of the street.

It was two hours later when Denver police arrived to place Eslocker under arrest, apparently based on a complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel, a central location for Democratic officials. During the arrest, one of the officers can be heard saying to Eslocker, "You're lucky I didn't knock the f..k out of you." Eslocker was released late today after posting $500 bond.

Eslocker and his ABC News colleagues are spending the week investigating the role of corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors at the convention for a series of Money Trail reports on ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson."

Original report here


We've learned that ABC News' associate producer Asa Eslocker has been advised by his lawyers not to speak about the events of yesterday, when he was arrested for filming outside the Brown Palace Hotel. We've also learned that the hotel today admitted that, no, they don't own the sidewalk, thereby making their arrest of Eslocker all the more suspect.

A memo from Eslocker's lawyers, as well as notes from the ACLU and Reporters Without Borders....

From Eslocker's lawyers:
Mr. Eslocker is innocent of all three crimes with which he's been charged. He and his ABC News crew were standing on public sidewalks covering an event of public significance and performing a press function protected by the First Amendment.

Frankly, we are outraged at the conduct of the individual officers. Their interactions with Mr. Eslocker are captured on tape. Mr. Eslocker was acting courteously and trying to determine where he and his news crew could stand on public sidewalks to report on an event involving some of this nations leader's -- an event that the public has a right to know about. Even the Brown Palace hotel has now acknowledged that the sidewalks are public property.

The case is now in the hands of the Denver City's Attorney's office, which has a well deserved reputation of acting reasonably and fairly. We are confident that when that office has had the opportunity to review the evidence, including our video tapes, it will decide to dismiss all charges against Mr. Eslocker.

The ACLU has put out the following release:
Following news reports and a video showing Denver law enforcement agents ordering a reporter off a public sidewalk and pushing him into the street and later arresting him, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado called for renewed protection of the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and a free press.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

"The physical removal of ABC reporter Asa Eslocker from public property and his subsequent arrest are a blatant assault on the First Amendment. Arresting a reporter for simply doing his job is both unconstitutional and un-American. That free speech is curtailed during the Democratic Convention underscores the need for continued protection of civil liberties, regardless of the party in power."

Reporters Without Borders:
Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of ABC News producer Asa Eslocker on August 27th in downtown Denver and calls on the Denver Police Department to drop all charges against the reporter.

Eslocker had been photographing high-ranking political officials in town for the Democratic National Convention for a story he was preparing on corporate donors and lobbyists. A video posted on ABC News's website shows a Denver sheriff's officer asking Eslocker to move from in front of the Brown Palace Hotel and then pushing him into oncoming traffic after he did not immediately comply. According to ABC News, Denver Police arrived two hours later and arrested Eslocker.

"The use of unnecessary force and the arrest of a journalist who was reporting an important political story is deeply troubling and unacceptable," Reporters Without Borders said. "The attempts at intimidation that were evident in the captured images of Eslocker's arrest simply because he refused to leave a shared, publicly used space reflect negatively on the Denver police and sheriff's departments' commitment to uphold a journalist's right to gather important news."

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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