Eleven hours before I was arrested during the Occupy Miami eviction in January, the Miami-Dade Police Homeland Security Bureau sent an email to various police officers, which was then forwarded to the department’s public information officers – including arresting officer Major Nancy Perez – informing them that I would be documenting the action.
The subject of the email was “Multimedia information/Situational Awareness.” It included my Facebook profile photo where I’m trying my hardest to look like a terrorist thug.
It also included the following statement about me.
Carlos Miller is a Miami multimedia journalist who has been arrested twice for taking pictures of law enforcement. He has publicly posted on social networks that he will be taking pictures today in order to document the eviction.
The email makes it clear that the Homeland Security Bureau was monitoring my Facebook page since before my arrest – not that I have an issue with that considering I have my profile set to public.
But it also makes it clear that Perez should have known exactly who I was when she singled me out from a horde of other journalists documenting the eviction and had me arrested.
Perhaps that is the exact reason why she had me arrested.
Even more compelling is why did Detective Maritza Aschenbrenner of the Homeland Security Bureau feel the need to advise officers of my presence when there were going to be countless other reporters and activists also documenting the eviction with cameras?
Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, who has fired off two letters to Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus over my arrest and the treatment of an América TeVe reporter, is also flabbergasted.
“I find it very troubling that a unit formed to deal with terrorist activities found it necessary to send out an email advising other departments and law enforcement officers that a journalist would be covering a newsworthy matter of public concern,” he wrote in an email after I sent him a copy of the email in question.
“It would be best if they followed their own directives that photography is a First Amendment protected activity and ‘should not be reported absent articulable facts and circumstances that support the suspicion that the behavior observed is not innocent . . . but rather reasonably indicative of criminal activity associated with terrorism or other crimes.’
“Unfortunately it appears that by their very actions they continue sustain the misguided belief that by its very nature photography is a crime. At best – behavior that chills free speech is extremely unprofessional – at worst it is criminal.”
Perhaps I’ve been on their radar ever since the department’s Homeland Security Bureau responded to the 2010 incident where Stretch Ledford and I were detained for taking pictures on the Miami-Dade Metrorail, an incident that led to us getting “permanently banned” from the Metrorail.
Not that I ever took that ban seriously as I proved a month later when I returned with a news crew only to get assaulted by a security guard for shooting video inside the station, an incident that prompted me to file a lawsuit that is still pending.
Public Records Request
The above-mentioned email is one of more than 200 emails obtained through a public records request made by Robert Chandler, brother of Joel Chandler, who was recently honored by the Knight Foundation for his work in keeping government transparent.
Robert Chandler, who runs Raw Dash Cam, also previously obtained the video footage of my arrest through a public records request as well as the total costs in overtime to evict the encampment, which resulted in a single arrest. Yes, me.
The five others that were jailed that night were arrested by City of Miami police and have since had their charges dismissed.
In his request, Robert Chandler asked for “all emails sent or received by any and all email accounts used by Major Nancy Perez from January 30, 2012 to March 14, 2012 that contain any of the following keywords - ‘Carlos Miller,’ ‘Photographer,’ ‘PINAC’ and ‘occupy.’”
On Thursday, I picked up a PST file from containing 214 emails from Bill Lyons, a legal advisor from the Miami-Dade Police Department’s legal bureau.
Lyons, who was very professional and courteous in person, charged me $23 for the records.
The very first email in the file was the one where the Homeland Security Bureau was advising other cops of my presence at the Occupy eviction, proving that you can’t get anything past those sleuths.
It also lists “surveillance” as the number one sign of terrorism in another PDF titled “The Eight Signs of Terrorism.”
Someone recording or monitoring activities. This may include the use of cameras (either still or video), note taking, drawing diagrams, annotating on maps, or using binoculars or other vision-enhancing devices
The Homeland Security Bureau also provides a Suspicious Activity Report form that encourages citizens to report suspicious behavior, which, of course, includes photography.
So given this paranoia about photography, it is no wonder why Major Glenn Stolzenberg, who heads the department’s Homeland Security Bureau, believes it was illegal of me to have posted Perez’s photo in this article, even though the photo was obtained through the department’s own website, making it a public record.
When Stolzenberg, pictured above, received an email from fellow officers informing him about my article in which I first had identified Perez as my arresting officer, he stated the following in his response:
Thanks Maggie. Please have someone take a look at this. There maybe a statute that deals with posting pictures of LE officers.
Fortunately, another officer named Brandy Conway had enough sense to know that I was not breaking the law when I posted Perez’s photo.
I do not think there is anything that prohibits this type of open source reporting. The picture was obtained through the unsecured webpage and there is no threat or slander in the post. Either way, I contacted Bob Diers from Legal, who advised that under FSS 119.071 it is unlawful for the governmental agency to release photographs or personal information of officers, but not for media to release the pictures. At this time, he has not violated any laws regarding the release of the photo or the post but this is something we definitely must keep an eye on. Some tactics used by activist groups involve harassment and that would violate numerous statutes depending on the methods they utilize. We will continue to monitor the sites and postings of Mr. Miller and ask that Major Perez please keep us notified of any contact made by this individual or his representatives/supporters.
In another email, Perez mentioned that some commenters on this blog were making physical threats against her, but I have reviewed the comments in the article and have not seen anything like that.
Just to be clear, physical threats against anybody is something I won’t tolerate on this site. I really didn’t agree with the disparaging remarks about her appearance but I tolerated it because it is protected speech.
Remember, it was her who insinuated that she and fellow officers would physically hurt me if I gave them the slightest provocation when she said, “we don’t want to have to hurt you” at 4:17 in the video below.
I won’t stoop down to that level.
As I continued writing about Perez in my updates, Aschenbrenner of the Homeland Security Bureau continued keeping tabs on my blog, passing along the articles to Perez.
In one mail, she sent Perez this piece, stating the following:
Hello Major Perez,
Have you seen this article? It was posted last night at 9:40pm.
Carlos Miller is on his high horse again. He continues to post negative statements regarding law enforcement. I will continue to monitor for additional information.
Perez responded with:
No I actually had not seen it. Thank you for sending it to me. Also, multiple demonstrators have begun to call my office wanting to engage me in conversation about Mr. Miller. Just an FYI
And Aschenbrenner responded with:
Interesting. Like I said before, this guy is targeting you and I believe he is trying to get some monetary gain as well as publicity.
Perez, who told my attorney during last week’s deposition that she is a good Christian woman, responded with the following:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
There was also a discussion as to whether or not police officers would be attending a panel discussion that I was sitting on where we were discussing the right to document police activity during demonstrations.
Officers decided not to attend when they realized they could view it through live stream.
In the panel, I mentioned that I plan to drive up to Tampa in August to document the demonstrations outside the Republican National Convention, which, of course, prompted another “situational awareness” where I’m sure Tampa authorities will be warned of my presence.
Here is Aschenbrenner’s recap of what I said during the panel discussion.
Carlos Miller repeatedly mentioned his recent arrest and how he has previously dealt with the police.
*Carlos Miller stated he intends to to attend the RNC in Tampa August 27-30, 2012 to record and document the event.
Proper notifications will be made for situational awareness purposes.
Most of the emails were not related to me and some reveal a sense of humor as you can see in this photo of a Miami police officer pretending to be sleeping in the trunk of his car in an email stating, “Taking a break after the Occupy Miami Takedown!”
Perez forwarded the email to Delrish Moss, the public information officer at Miami police, with the words, “FYI / for your eyes only. Please remind them that someone is always watching.”
Yes, it’s true. Somebody is always watching. They are watching me. And I am watching them.
As long as we all keep it legal and civil, neither side should have anything to worry about.
If you want to read through all the emails, download the PST file here. You will need to import it into Outlook, then click on “root items.” At least that’s how I got it to work on a Mac.
Now some unrelated news
I will be getting a hair transplant today, Monday, April 23rd, which will be live streamed if anybody is interested in watching a doctor slice away at my scalp only to transfer hair follicles to the front of my head.
Dr. Ricardo Mejia offered to do the hair transplant in exchange of me documenting my experiences on this blog.
I figure that as long as police insist on arresting me for completely legal behavior, I might as well look the best I can for my mug shots.
I imagine the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Homeland Security Bureau will be tuning in to the live stream for situational awareness. After, of course, they notify the Jupiter Police Department of my camera-carrying presence in their sleepy coastal town.
After all, you just never know what I might say under anesthesia.
Please send stories, tips and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
You can also contribute to my Legal Defense Fund by purchasing a photographer rights lens cloth and/or laminated card to wear around your neck like a press badge through Zap Rag.Please write “carlos3″ in the comments section of the Paypal transaction to ensure I receive a portion of the sale.