Revolution #210, August 20, 2010
High Stakes Trial August 24
Attacked by Police, Videographer Faces 3 Years in Jail
From a statement received by Revolution:
A young man is facing 3 years in jail. His crime? Videotaping. Yes, videotaping a very brief but newsworthy statement by Sunsara Taylor in November 2009 at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC), in Skokie, IL.
The day before he was arrested this videographer had filmed a two hour workshop by Taylor in the exact same venue with no objections. The next day he accompanied Taylor when she returned to make a short statement objecting to the EHSC's abrupt cancellation of her long-scheduled speech and inviting anyone who wanted to hear the presentation to the home of an EHSC member who opened her doors when the society shut theirs. When told to stop filming before Sunsara made her statement, he put down the video camera as requested. His only device to capture Sunsara's short statement was an iPhone. He was doing nothing wrong or illegal at the time he was rushed by the police in the lecture hall right after Sunsara announced that she was leaving.
The videographer was maced and brutalized during his arrest—eyewitnesses and photos taken at the hospital document this, yet he was the one charged with trespassing, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer which he did not do. This is a police practice so common it has a name—"cover charges," charges that police press when they need legal justification to "cover" their brutality toward a defendant. (See American Constitutional Society Issue Brief "Disorderly (mis)Conduct: The Problem with 'Contempt of Cop' Arrests" by Cynthia Lopez, June 2010. Available at www.acslaw.org/node/16288)
For over 9 months, there has been a vengeful and unrelenting pursuit of a conviction for a situation that an impartial observer would expect to be easily resolved within a couple of weeks. In fact, unsolicited efforts by third parties to mediate an equitable solution have been stonewalled by those bringing the charges.
Support is greatly needed to defeat these outrageous charges.
What you can do:
Post this statement on list serves, e-lists, Facebook. Send to your email list.
If you are in the Chicago area: Attend the trial at Cook County Courthouse, 5600 W. Old Orchard Rd., Skokie, IL at 9:30 AM, Tuesday, August 24, 2010.
The prosecution even mounted an unsuccessful effort to find the defendant in contempt of court because of a defense committee website that publicizes and gathers support for him against this unjust prosecution! Reasonable people would certainly be justified in wondering whether there are some larger forces or agenda driving the State's determination to get a conviction. Whatever the full story is, we cannot let them convict this videographer for any of these unjust and ridiculous charges.
The defendant in this case had very difficult circumstances as a youth, yet he has transformed himself into a political activist, leading a very ethical life. The irony of this has been noted by more than one humanist; the EHSC should be giving him a platform to speak, not trying to throw him in jail!
This videographer has done very constructive things, dedicating his life to ending oppression. He came alive in the struggle to protect women's reproductive rights in the wake of the murder of abortion provider Dr. Tiller. He donned an orange jumpsuit to draw attention to torture of prisoners at Guantánamo. He marched against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq . He went to the Southside of Chicago to speak out against police shootings of young Black men. He has helped to provide revolutionary literature, like Revolution newspaper, to prisoners, and he has spoken to young people in Chicago classrooms as he sought to reach out to youth and others trapped in the bottom of society. And as part of his activism, he videotapes events, like he was doing that day.
Is this someone who should be thrown in jail for almost 3 years for literally holding up an iPhone?? Shame on those who seek to ruin a man's life to pursue their objectives.
We will not be silent. We will let others know about this injustice. It is really very simple: It is way past time to drop the charges.
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