It was a year that firmly established Photography is Not a Crime as a national blog, going from an average of more than 700 page views a day in 2008 to more than 4,000 in 2009.
A year that resulted in me getting arrested again for photographing police against their wishes.
But the most significant highlight for me this year was winning my appeal pro se on my first arrest; a legal victory that nobody will ever take away from me.
It was also a year of nonstop police abuses against photographers, videographers and journalists. A year where a multitude of videos continued to pop up on the internet revealing blatant police abuses against civilians as well as numerous incidents where police were too quick to use their Taser.
So let’s take a look at what went down in 2009.
The year started off with a bang. Literally. With a police shooting that was caught on a cell phone camera hours into New Year’s Day.
A Bay Area Rapid Transit Cop shot an unarmed man in the back. At least two people recorded the shooting on their cell phone cameras. Police are said to have confiscated many more cameras, an act that is illegal without a warrant.
The incident shone a spotlight on the importance of being allowed to document police activity as well as the intimidation tactics police use to prevent these films from becoming public.
Meanwhile, a New Jersey man named Duane Kerzic was becoming a national symbol of photographer rights after he was arrested in December 2008 for photographing an Amtrak train in New York City while participating in an Amtrak photo contest. Kerzic, who is a regular Photography is Not a Crime reader, ended up going on the The Colbert Report and winning an undisclosed settlement of five figures.
Down in Miami, a local blogger created all sorts of controversy when she tried to photograph Matt Damon against his wishes. The incident prompted many people who normally support photographer rights to come out in defense of Damon, saying he deserved the right to his privacy, even though he was in a crowded nightclub at the time.
And in Colorado, a man took a photograph of a bare-assed dangling man, prompting the photo company he was working for to threaten anybody who dared publish the photo with a lawsuit if they did not remove the photo. Photography is Not a Crime is still waiting to be served.
The irony continued in the New York City’s train system when a Metropolitan Transit Authority worker ended up getting arrested by NYPD officers for photographing a train.
And the crackdown against photographers spread across the pond in bizarre doses when the United Kingdom enacted a new law that turned all photographers into suspected terrorists, prompting photographers to organize a protest.
And a professional gambler in Las Vegas tested his luck by taking a picture inside a casino and refusing to show the image to security guards, prompting them to detain him illegally for 90 minutes.
In a Photography is Not a Crime exclusive, a South Florida model was jailed overnight on felony charges after filming police against their wishes in a case that was quickly dropped.
A TV reporter was arrested in Texas after pulling up to the scene of an accident that resulted from a police pursuit of a car filled with marijuana.
And in Connecticut, police feared for their lives when they arrested a priest who filmed them frisking an Ecuadorian immigrant inside a convenience store.
Phoenix police raided the home of a blogger who was critical of them, then raided the home of a cop who they suspected was supplying the blogger with information. They also spent the month cracking down on photographers and skateboarders. And get this, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio had nothing to do with it all.
In New Hampshire, an activist was jailed for more than two months for refusing to provide his real name, even though the authorities already knew his real name.
And back in Texas, a couple of El Paso TV reporters were jailed for contempt of cop when they refused to stop filming an accident scene on a highway.
In Oklahoma, a state trooper pulled over an ambulance with a patient in the back because the driver refused to yield for him in an incident caught on both a dashcam and citizen video.
In Maryland, a cop testified that she arrested a man for DUI after she found him passed out in the drivers seat of a running car before a video revealed she had actually pulled him out of the back seat of his parked car.
In Washington, a Seattle man was arrested after he photographed an open ATM, which was open in full view of the public.
And in Virginia, a man chased down a cop who was speeding, caught it all on video, and lived to tell about it.
The lies of Maryland cops continued to be exposed on video when a dash cam showed a cop punch a suspect in the face, only to write in his report that the suspect punched him first.
And another cop feared for his life in Texas when he used a Taser on a 72-year-old woman.
And in North Carolina, a news videographer was assaulted, handcuffed and detained while filming a fatal traffic accident because he was “not showing proper respect to the people in the accident.”
The summer heat was obviously getting to police when they sodomized a man in Idaho with a Taser.
And a contempt of cop arrest suddenly became national news when a close friend of President Obama was arrested for “disorderly conduct” inside his own home. But the media still didn’t see it as a contempt of cop issue, but as a racial profiling issue.
And in Virginia, the assault against bloggers continued when a Virginia woman was arrested for blogging about police.
Virginia, cops also entered a baptism party and used their Taser on a grandfather and pregnant woman because the music had been too loud, even though it was the middle of the afternoon. Or maybe they just feared for their lives.
And in New Mexico, a police chief said he was only trying to protect a 13-year-old girl when he chased her down and used his Taser on her, leaving a gaping wound in her head. Her crime: she was being unruly to her mother. Or maybe he just feared for his life.
In another Photography is Not a Crime exclusive, Homeland Security Agents arrested a man in Manhattan for filming a federal building from a public sidewalk.
In Wyoming, police repeatedly used a Taser on a 76-year-old man because he was riding his antique tractor in a parade. Or maybe the cops just …..
And as the debate on health care reform swept the country, a St. Louis Dispatch photographer was arrested trying to capture the melee during a demonstration at a town hall meeting.
In Massachusetts, police proved they don’t even respect correction officers when they severely beat one after he attempted to film them during a traffic investigation.
In Indiana, police forced a catherization on a DUI suspect after he passed a breathalyzer.
And in Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s deputies harassed videographers three times in two weeks.
And down in Texas, police claimed it was illegal to photograph the Houston Metro Light Rail.
A Chicago House of Blues security guard was arrested after assaulting a woman who photographed him and snatching the camera away from her in an incident caught on video.
A student journalist was arrested in Mississippi for photographing a fight on campus.
And after months of people showing up to President Obama’s rallies legally packing guns, a photographer was told that it was illegal to photograph the presidential limo.
One of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s detention officers was caught on video swiping a court file in an incident that ended up with the deputy jailed on a contempt of court charge. Supposedly.
A so-called social media expert at the St. Louis Dispatch cost a man his job after the man used the word pussy on the newspaper’s blog. The internet fallout against Kurt Greenbaum was so severe that it appears he also lost his job because his byline has not been seen since. However, nobody at the newspaper has publicly addressed the issue. Nor any other mainstream media newspaper for that matter.
A Pennsylvania man won a $50,000 settlement after he was cited for flipping off a cop, proving that obscene gestures toward police officers is protected under the First Amendment.
And in Arkansas, another cop who feared for his life used his Taser on a 10-year-old girl.
And after Walmart banned photojournalists from its stores on Black Friday (one year after a worker was trampled to death), a Photography is Not a Crime reader sent a video that showed complete customer chaos. The video was posted on my Youtube account where it received more than 275,000 views and almost 3,000 comments in six days. Can’t wait to see what Walmart has in store for next Black Friday.
An award-winning videographer who had survived battles in Bosnia was arrested in a West Virginia shopping mall after photographing Santa Claus.
A Tampa Tribune photojournalist had his cell phone confiscated after he photographed a federal agent in the wake of a traffic accident.
In January, I am scheduled to face the same biased judge whom I beat in my appeal.
So stay tuned because the battle may be over but the war is still raging.