It is July 5th, 2020 at 2:12 am. Here streaming events on the ground from my studio, I am alerted that a local videographer and photojournalist whom I follow is being arrested. I jump to his stream and put it up on our aggregate, and we watch the arrest unfold.
During the arrest, Pink (Randal) is still recording, still streaming live as they put him in the car and drive him to the Justice Center for processing. We watch them get out, camera dangling at the officer’s legs as they walk into the Justice Center. Outside, the Justice Center is boarded up, and looks more like a fortress of plywood and stone. Yet as the camera comes along with Randal, we see the inside of the Justice Center is like any other office, the lights are on, there are bikes against the wall. Randal walks back and sits in a chair. Some officers talk to each other and to Randal. One of the officers gets a phone call, then we hear “Can you fix that?” and the stream goes dark. Immediately I checked Randal’s Facebook page to see if the feed posted; it had not. I waited 5 minutes more, gave time for video processing, and still no feed. It was then clear to me, they deleted it.
Once arrived, the police pressed Pink for his password, telling him that he cannot live stream in the Justice Center. After being compelled to provide his password, the officer not only ended his live stream but also deleted it. By default when you end a Facebook live stream, you are asked if you would like to save, delete or share the stream. If you simply press the back button or otherwise exit the screen the video WILL publish to your feed. Instead, the officer deleted the feed by the intentional pressing of the delete button.
There are some interesting reflections from these events. First off is that there was a 14-day temporary restraining order put into place by Federal Judge Michael H. Simon on July 2nd 2020. Just 3 days before this arrest. That order, which was a suit brought by the ACLU, stated that members of the press were NOT to be arrested or interfered with. It DID allow the exception of IF police had probable cause a crime had been committed by the person in question. However it exempted journalists from dispersal orders.
That being said, we have seen the Portland Police arrest journalists and make claims of criminal activity or involvement with next to no evidence other than the word of the arresting officer. A perfect example is Cory Eila, who was arrested on March 31st 2020 while doing his job. He was charged with interfering with a police officer, which, for the protest community is looked at as the most basic of trumped up charges. Like the “unlawful assembly” order that we hear so often in Portland. No one seems to know what the grounds are for either condition. In the case of Pink, the officers accused him of launching a mortar, which, by the way, is NOT an arrestable offence, nor is possession of illegal fireworks. If in fact he had them, that type of charge is met with a citation and a summons.
Next is the fact that in both videos, the one on our aggregate stream and the one sent to us which we have posted with this video, Pink VERY CLEARLY states that he does NOT consent to a search of his belongings. Yet after cutting his backpack off and placing him into the police car, they then look through his belongings anyway, instead of following protocol and getting a warrant to do so. This seems like yet another overreach of one’s rights. Pink had the right to refuse the search of his property IN HIS BAG, in custody or not. Just like he had the right to refuse to provide the password for his phone.
Either way, Judge Simons’ order prohibited the police from seizing any photographic equipment, audio- or video-recording equipment, or ordering anyone to stop recording unless lawfully seizing that person consistent with the order.
Now, this bears the questions.
What might Randal catch on film that the Portland Police wanted to hide?
Why did the police delete it?
Was Randal arrested with the intent of destroying something Randal caught on film?
The order requires the police to return all equipment, press passes etc.
The police cannot return a video they deleted.
The Portland Police over the last 40 days, have repeatedly targeted, attacked, and arrested the free press. This has been documented and is without question. The point at which the police start arresting and deleting the footage of the journalists who are reporting on the actions of the police, we as a city, and as US citizens, need to be taking a REALLY hard look at the actions of law enforcement, their encroachment on the First Amendment, and its relationship to the ever evolving landscape of our freedom.
To add to the concern, there is the addition of federal law enforcement to the Portland protest landscape. They have also now been documented taking concerning actions against journalists. Several times we have seen law enforcement directing journalists to locations that are so distant from the scene that it removes journalists’ ability to document effectively. On July 04 2020 two incidents have been seen in the Twitter space, which leads the question, is federal law enforcement taking a stance against the free media in alignment with the current administration? One could only surmise, if that is the case, that it is in fact, at the direction of the administration.
I am thankful that our feed was able to capture the ending part of the video that the police deleted, but it should not be necessary for people to hope someone else is backing up their footage. Yet we hear it on streams every single night, “screencap this,” “save this stream,” “someone please screen record my stream.” Journalists are fearful of what the police, what the government and corporations can do, with the work they generate while reporting on corruption, racism, abuse and overall toxicity in policing and government.
Below is the new video sent to us by a viewer and used with consent. It is an external view of the arrest. The view from Randal’s camera can be found on our live stream from that night and is also embedded below.
This is the original video of his arrest from his camera on our stream (the video that was we allege deleted by PPB), the video is our aggregate stream, I bring Randal’s feed up a 3hrs 39m and 55 seconds, it takes me a few moments to isolate the audio from his feed. His video is on the top, second from the left.