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Trial begins for New Orleans police officers accused of arresting photographers

New Orleans police officers, which are renowned for their corruption, have threatened or arrested people for videotaping, photographing or merely observing them in 12 separate incidents since 2005.

But those are just the ones involved in a federal lawsuit in which opening statements were h


New Orleans police officers, which are renowned for their corruption, have threatened or arrested people for videotaping, photographing or merely observing them in 12 separate incidents since 2005.

But those are just the ones involved in a federal lawsuit in which opening statements were heard Monday.

In hindsight, they are probably lucky they didn’t get killed.

One of the plaintiffs, Greg Griffith, was apparently arrested twice in a span of two years.

From a 2005 article:

Griffith, whose account was corroborated by two witnesses, told The NewStandard that the officers took his video camera, slammed it on the ground and kicked it across the street. “They justified arresting me by saying that I broke a police cordon or crossed a police line,” he said. “There was no police line and I didn’t cross one in any situation anyway.” Griffith said that the police searched him without consent and found his pocket-knife and accused him of having an illegal weapon. “And they proceeded to say I was resisting arrest as they were slamming my face into the cruiser.”

He was arrested again in 2007:

It was a tense scene on Canal Street. In February of 2007, as the Bacchus parade rolled by, police moved in to stop a fight between two groups of women.

Former Kent State student Greg Griffith, who moved to New Orleans to work after Katrina, followed the officers for a full minute, filming their every move.

Griffith says officer Brian Harrison took the camera, tackled him to the ground, and arrested him. He says the officer broke his glasses, sprained his wrist, and forced him to kneel on concrete for a half an hour.

Noah Learned was also arrested in the 2007 incident.

And in separate incidents, a Times-Picayune city editor and  pair of Canadian journalists were also arrested in a 2005

Reporter Tim Harper and photographer Lucas Oleniuk of the Canadian Toronto Star daily were the victims of police violence while covering a clash between police and looters. The police threatened them several times at gunpoint and, when they realised Oleniuk had photographed them hitting looters, they hurled him to the ground, grabbed his two cameras and removed memory cards containing around 350 pictures. His press card was also torn from him. When he asked for his pictures back, the police insulted him and threatened to hit him.

Harper said in a report about the police violence in the Toronto Star that, given the situation in New Orleans, there was not doubt that the police saw journalists as an obstacle to their efforts to regain control of the city.

A second incident involved Gordon Russell of the New Orleans-based Times-Picayune daily as he was covering a shoot-out between police and local residents near the convention centre where hurricane victims were awaiting evacuation. The police detained Russell and smashed all of his equipment on the ground. Russell was forced to flee to avoid further violence and reportedly left the city the same day.

The victims are expected to testify throughout the week.

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