February 21st, 2013

PINAC Forums Coming Soon on Six Year Anniversary of my First Arrest 27

By Carlos Miller


Six years ago today,  I limped out of the Miami-Dade County jail with a huge welt on my forehead from where police had bashed my head against the sidewalk after I had refused to stop taking their photo.

I had just spent 16 hours in what is considered one of the most dangerous jails in the country on nine misdemeanor charges, vowing to do whatever it took to clear my name.

I first posted my story on Democratic Underground where I used to post under the username Raging Liberal.

I was beat up, handcuffed and arrested by Miami police after photographing them against their wishes

The cops slammed me to the pavement even though I offered no resistance, causing a deep abrasion on my right knee.

One cop grabbed me by the back of the head and repeatedly bashed my forehead against the sidewalk, causing abrasions and swelling to the right side of my forehead.

Another cop grabbed my right hand and bent it backwards in a 90 degree angle, causing me to scream out in pain and continued to do so even after the handcuffs were placed on me.

As I verbally protested, one cop threatened me with a taser gun if I did not stop talking.

I was charged with five counts of disobeying a police officer, one count of obstructing justice, one count of obstructing traffic, one count of disorderly conduct and one count of resisting arrest without violence.

Then my story was posted on Category 305, the now defunct website that I had been on assignment for that night. This is how editor Rebecca Wakefield described the incident:

The arrest affidavit says that Miller approached the scene without identifying himself and stood in the middle of the street obstructing traffic. He was told to go to the other side of Biscayne Boulevard because of the heavy traffic. “At which time, [Miller] refused to obey Ofc. Reid’s commands and stated, ‘This is a public road and I can do
what the hell I want.’” (Miller disputes that he said anything remotely like that he could do “what the hell” he wanted.)

The affidavit further describes Miller as “refusing to walk freely, tensing himself and taking pictures with his camera.” He also wouldn’t put his hands behind his back.

But the kicker is this: “Note: While my unit, all the officer mention above including Sgt. Rahming escorted [Miller] to the middle of the street and told him to cross to the sidewalk, [Miller], for the fourth time refused to obey the verbal commands and that’s why he was arrested.” The affidavit lists the charges as five counts of failure to obey a police officer, and one count each of obstructing justice, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest without violence.

The problem with the veracity of at least some of this document, notably that last sentence, is that Miller’s photographs show that he was not in the middle of Biscayne Boulevard when arrested. Two lanes of traffic are clearly visible behind the advancing officers, which means Miller was on, or very near, the sidewalk.

The story took the blogosphere by storm, which I wasn’t even familiar with at the time. San Francisco-based photographer Thomas Hawk did several updates on the story, showing me the power of the blogopshere.

Two months later, I launched this blog in the hopes that it would educate police and photographers about the law when it came to this issue because I saw a huge amount of ignorance out there. I also wanted to raise awareness about my upcoming trial.

But today, after an additional two arrests and trials (and still no convictions) as well as a recent beat-down by security guards for taking photos on the Metrorail, I am burned out, broke and considering bowing out.

However, because I am on the verge of introducing forums, which I had planned months ago to boost the quality of content,  I am going to continue blogging at least until the end of the year.

And if I decide to bow out by January, I’m hoping the forums will remain sustainable where readers can continue documenting these stories as well as educating each other about the laws.

The truth is, I need financial help in maintaining this site. As it is, I keep digging myself deeper in debt because of this blog and my constant legal issues. Contrary to many reports, I have only filed one lawsuit (two that became one) and that may take a while before it reaches a jury. And there is no guarantee what that will result in.

So I need donations. I need sponsorships. I need advertisers. I need people to buy my t-shirts.

I need to pay my bills, which includes at least a $100-a-month for bandwidth as well as $700 for the new forums, which will come with a section in the right-hand column where readers can submit stories, links or videos.

I understand the economics of the internet.  People do not like to spend money if they don’t have to.  And nobody likes to pay for a blog.

But a site that averages at least 200,000 page views a month should be able to make some money. So I’m going to try my hardest to make it happen this year but if it doesn’t happen, then I’m prepared to move on.

If PINAC is not financially sustainable by December 31, I will close the blog portion of the site, convert the stories into archives, and make the forums the main part of the site, allowing readers to moderate it.

I will effectively retire from PINAC, even though I hate that term, because it sounds so permanent, but I’m going to have to figure out a way to make money.

During the next several months, I will give Google Ad Sense a try, even though I don’t expect much from it because I know my readers will not click on ads.

I know that because readers barely click on the ads I’ve placed to PINAC Nation, which is the site where I’m selling merchandise.

I’ve been told the prices are too high but I am selling them at a fair markup from what I’m paying. It’s not cheap when you start small.

I do plan on lowering the shipping rates for the patches and stickers, sending those in first class envelopes instead of priority envelopes, and hopefully introduce new products and designs, but that’s hard to do when the existing products haven’t sold much.

I would also like to put a call out to sponsors where your blog would appear in the left-hand column where the news feed exist now. I’m thinking this would be a good opportunity for attorneys who blog as well as non-profits that believe in the First Amendment.

For this, I’m asking for an annual fee of $1,000. That rate may go up or down depending on response and interest, but your content will be prominently displayed on the front page to an ever-increasing readership that has reached 550,000 page views a month several times over the last few  years.

I also plan to introduce some type of PINAC membership where members receive a PINAC polo shirt, t-shirt and a press pass.

I’ve been thinking about this daily ever since I was attacked on the Metrorail last month. Thinking about what I’ve accomplished. Thinking about what I want to accomplish. And thinking about what I need to accomplish.

I want nothing more than to continue running this site, but I would like it to make enough money where I could hire a staff writer or two to really increase the quality of content.

But I need to make a living. I need to survive. I need to pay off debts and build up savings.

I need to stop getting beat up over this issue because I’m still hurting from that last assault.

The truth is, I could have easily been killed that night on the Metrorail. Those guards didn’t care about me. They were intent on suffocating me.

Who knows what they would have done if my friend hadn’t been there recording?

Who knows what would have happened had I gone tumbling head first down the escalator after they had shoved me?

Who knows how I would have managed if I had not been in decent shape and able to maintain my breathing despite one arm choking me and another arm pushing my head down?

And for what? Would it have changed anything on the photographers’ rights forefront?

No, not at all. Life would go on as usual with a few segments of the internet arguing whether I had it coming to me or not. And maybe the guards would be charged or maybe not, but what difference would that make to me anyway?

I’ve accomplished a lot on this blog in the last six years but I’ve also turned a lot of people off, including the local media and almost every cop in Miami, which not only means I will never stand a chance in ever getting hired as a journalist down here again, but I risk arrest every time I interact with a local cop.

I’ve lost two media jobs because of this blog, NBC Miami and Miami Beach 411, and the blog has been unable to supplement those incomes that I lost.

And I’ve also chose not to apply for jobs in which I was well-qualified for because I didn’t want to lose focus on this blog.

I manage to get by with a few clients who hire me regularly to do photo shoots as well as clients who hire me every few months or so, but it’s a constant struggle and hustle and it means I have no money to save.

And I believe I have enough talent, skills and experience to make a comfortable living in whatever it is I may find.

After the Metrorail incident, a longtime PINAC reader left the following comment on the Flickr Photography is Not a Crime group, which really got me thinking:

I’ve been following Carlos from his original blog, then to when he was on the Pixiq blog, then back to his. He’s in it for himself, and the fact that he has a drum to draw attention to himself that you find interesting is smart on his part, certainly.

My rights are not put in the spotlight by Carlos. My rights are unchanged by his actions. I’m glad he stands up for his rights, everyone should. That doesn’t change him, at all. He conducts himself in public and on his blog in a way I find egregious. Right after a poster on his blog threatened a police officer he had named in a story, the very next comment, Carlos posted his full address and contact information. Sorry, he’s not helping anyone.

The words that really stood out for me were, “he’s in it for himself.”

In what for myself? The notoriety of being the poster child of photographers’ rights where I am monitored by Homeland Security and profiled and arrested by the largest police agency in South Florida?

The exhaustion of spending endless nights updating the blog because I feel a story is necessary to share with my readers before morning?

The disappointment that I can’t write every story that comes across my desk nor answer every question because sometimes I’m just too busy or too tired or just too overwhelmed by which story to focus on because there is so much out there?

The fact that I risk arrest and assault for testing out photo policies in order to help educate people about their rights, not to mention the jail sentences I risk by choosing to take my cases to trial?

If I was truly in it for myself, I would have quit three years ago, right after a judge dismissed the charge against me from my second arrest when the cop didn’t show up.

That comment made me realize that I hadn’t done enough for myself because of this blog and maybe it was time to say screw it, I’ve already proved my point, there is nothing more I can do.

But then I come across a story like this one from last week in which the cop blatantly broke the law with the media claiming he had the right to do so, and I realize that there is so much more work to done.

But I need your help in doing it.

If you believe this blog is worth it, please make a donation.

 


Send stories, tips and videos to Carlos Miller.

To help support the blog, please click below to make a donation or purchase Photography is Not a Crime apparel on PINAC Nation.





  • Lefim

    “… had just spent 16 hours in what is considered one of the most dangerous jails in the country …”
    That which doesn’t kill you . . .

    • Gordon Freeman

      Doesn’t make you richer?

      • Lefim

        Caught the humour of it, though a slight phrase change “…makes you richer?” would make it a LOL moment. I was starting off Nietzsche’s quote: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and Carlos is going stronger.

        • jch9596

          “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is what people tell other people knowing it’s suck ass advice. Sometimes it does not make you stronger., it makes you weaker. Sometimes it pisses you off or makes you bitter and angry. The whole “makes you stronger” saying is really just a weak attempt to make someone feel better, usually the person saying it.

          • Lefim

            Or just remarking on the irony of the immediate situation you’re in knowing that, just short of death, you will recover. “From the military school of life – what does not kill me makes me stronger” (Twilight of the Idols). There’s no promise of how much, just that you will.

            Or we can go with the hyper-Nietzschean aphorism of Jiinger’s that goes: “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger; and what kills me makes me incredibly strong.” A bit dark for a celebration, don’t you think?.

            Or we can go with this, affirming we all rise above our defeats (just ask Carlos):

            Stuck in the county jail,
            Nobody here gonna’ pay my bail.
            Thirty days with a smelly drunk,
            A turn-key callin’ me a dirty punk.
            I got to pick myself up, and stop lookin’ back.
            And I’ve got to move straight ahead, stop lookin’ back.

            Shoot for the stars when my eyes can’t see the starlight.
            Reach for the sun in the night.
            Stop lookin’ back at the times I was defeated,
            I pick myself up, I move straight ahead, I stop lookin’ back.

  • Guy Fawkes

    BW cost for a high traffic site is killer. I knew a couple of people in your position, they didn’t have much money and their sites kept gaining popularity. One of them had to give it up and the site went under. The other managed to find a patron who hosted his site for free. I hate to sound pessimistic, but if you can’t find someone to host PINAC for free or at least highly discounted you are going to be in the shit.

    • http://www.dan-vidal.com/ Pod

      I posted a long-winded comment, and it disappeared. In a nutshell, basically:

      - Move to the forum format. Let the community be your contributors.

      - Hosting/bandwidth is cheap if you want it to be.

      - Let the users know this is a self-funded project, ask for donations, but also let them know that “shit happens” and the site will be slow or offline sometimes since you’re on the Motel 6 hosting plan.

  • David Lee Kersey

    I know it not a lot but I chipped in five bucks, good luck man.

  • Rusty Gunn

    Alright, I really don’t like doing this because somebody is bound to say I’m a braggert but it needs to be done and people need to see it. For over a year I’ve been sending Carlos $100 a month from my Social Security check because I really believe in what he’s doing. I’m sure that if I can do that for Carlos then there are others here who can do more than toss in a five spot from time to time. AND, I’m sure there are people here who can do much more than I. It’s time to step up to the plate and start swing’n the bat folks. Money talks and bullshit walks, so let’s all get on board and show some real committment.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1053449260 Kathy Walton

      Bless you, Rusty. Bless you!

    • CitizenJane

      Rusty – You’re a doll. No one’s calling you a braggert! Kathy is right-on.

  • JdL

    Happy anniversary, Carlos! I’ve just made a donation. Hope you get enough to keep this blog going!

  • http://twitter.com/gshevlin gshevlin

    I donated and I will be passing this message out on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Rob

    Carlos. Thank you for everything you do for photographers rights and the rights of the public in general. I’ll gladly place a donation and an order from your site.

  • jch9596

    I feel your pain, Carlos. I would love to help you out, but sometimes it is a struggle making ends meet. As a photographer trying to make ends meet (and get a much needed lens or two) I know all too well how hard it is to sell a few pictures here and there to do just what I need to do to stay even, much less get ahead. I can’t promise I can help out at all, but at the very least, know there are some of us out there who appreciate what you do. Little comfort, I know.

  • rich

    Not always polished or perfect this sight is passionate and has changed what you set out to change roaches can not scurry nearly as safely as they did before you turned on a light.

  • Quad

    Carlos, I’m a frequent reader and appreciate what you’ve built here. I sympathise with your position on most articles. This movement you’ve been a part of does need your voice and tenacity, however, you need to get your life in order. The movement doesn’t need a burned out Carlos, it needs a stable one. Take a break, get solid work, get your debts and house in order and come back strong. The message I’m getting is that you haven’t had a good life balance since being involved in photogs rights. Please take the time to balance yourself.

  • John P.

    I disagree 100% with that first comment from the reader..I’ve NEVER thought anything else of this website than it being for good…Its about time someone started taking our rights as US citizens serious bc if we do what we’ve been doing, you see what we get- an inflated police state govt which feels it can and will do anything is so pleases against the citizens. Its about time some like Carlos does the job of all citizens, which is to keep our govt in check- read the constitution, its not only our right ITS OUR DUTY!! Use what our founders gave us, give in to the police state and end up like all the rest throughout history that thought their growing govt was for good when it was in the end grown to oppress its people. History is taught, well should I say , used to be taught so that we learn from the mistakes of our ancestors. So, whoever said that this website is in it for themselves is an absolute moron…

  • dissentingd

    Carlos, first off I’d like to say thank you. Thanks for your courage, your diligence, and your willingness to share. Thank you for advancing this very important issue and constantly keeping us all as updated as you can. Thank you for giving me something that rightfully upsets and agitates me into action. Thank you for the laughs and outrage your commentary sometimes evokes.

    I will be donating later today. I’m sorry for not having donated earlier.

    However, I did want to let you know why I hadn’t donated yet, and it may help inform your decisions as you move forward. I was very interested in repeatedly donating to your most recent criminal case but I didn’t because of the impression I do sometimes get from the site that you are in it for yourself.

    Do I believe you are in it for a profit? No, there’s no money in websites and being an agitator to the police will quickly lead one to financial ruin.

    But sometimes the things you say do leave the impression of Carlos being the most important thing here. I don’t believe that is how you intend to sound, but such is life (and writing). Sometimes you come off sounding like a jerk, too. Surprisingly, I mind that less.

    I believe one of the obstacles to the higher success you hope for is your tone, at times. It occasionally lacks humility.

    When you asked for donations on the last case, I wanted SO badly to donate. You mentioned while fighting it that you intended to follow up with a civil suit. No mention was made that if you won the criminal case, then the civil case (+payday), that any of the criminal donations would be repaid, if feasible. The impression that was left was that we would help fund the fight and you would reap the rewards.

    Do I think you would do that? Nope. But you didn’t say you wouldn’t.

    What was missing (and still is in some ways) is how, in return for the donations and support, you would be accountable to us, your community. Reassure us of your intentions, so that we may give more freely. Lets get this street moving both ways.

    I think your post today is a good step in that direction.

    My donation is coming. If you keep the stories, videos, and commentary going, my donations will too. I have no problem with you asking for money. I have no problem giving it.

    But there is more about how you want to run this site that you need to consider. I recommend learning about Andrew Sullivan’s most recent independent blog direction (though PINAC is far from ready yet). The forums are a good first step.

    The tone you take with the cops, with assholes, and with ignorant MSM, try to keep that away from your “voice” with your readers. When writing to your readers, write nice. Write humble. And be honest about the money, time, and effort that is needed to continue this project. If you need money, let us know why and how it is going to be applied. People love giving, as long as they know where its going.

    Maybe set up a few different donation accounts? One for site-upkeep (hosting, design, monitoring, etc), one for criminal/civil cases ( with some form of promise of repayment if a big payday ever comes along?), one for Carlos living expenses and/or gear, and maybe even a Carlos beer fund? You’d probably be surprised how quickly the site and your beer are paid for.

    I truly wish you success, with this site, as well as professionally and personally.

    If you do decide you no longer have the time, please pass the torch. There are many of us who care and will carry on.

    • Carlos_Miller

      I hear what you’re saying but my plan, if I win any lawsuit, is to invest back back into the blog with all I am doing and to hire writers.

      I will elaborate more in a future post but I really want to build something here that is not just about me because it’s not.

      But as it is now, it is only me running the blog.

      I’m hoping with the forums that it will become more of an interactive community and from there, possibly a staff writer or two will emerge.

    • CitizenJane

      With all due respect, Dissentingd, I think you’re mistaken about Carlos being in it for himself. He’s been fighting for 6 years, not only for the rights of photojournalists, but for the rights of all.

      I’m not a journalist or photographer, I’m not in law enforcement. I’m just an average citizen who enjoys snapping interesting photos and posting them through social media sites, recording interesting moments in my life. When I first read Miller’s blog, it opened my eyes. I’d always understood the 1st Amendment, yet didn’t fully capture the essence of what it meant to me personally.

      I’ve traveled all around the country and have taken many photos in subways, trains, buses and even the Metrorail in Miami. Had I been stopped by any form of law enforcement and told to stop recording, or stop taking photos – I would’ve obliged without questioning authority. After finding the PINAC blog, it opened my eyes to my rights.

      The dedication Carlos has invested is anything but self-centered. He supports his readers and followers, he maintains the blog & lands national stories first, he’s fighting the ‘good’ fight against Miami law enforcement, and he’s standing up for the cause publicly. He’s been ostracized by local MSM. He’s been banned from public transportation, and I’m sure he’s not in the good graces of the Miami-Dade Police department after his most recent win & acquittal in November 2012.

      Miller has faced jail time in “one of the most dangerous jails in the country” several times. He’s been a victim of violent crimes recorded on camera, we’ve all seen the horrifying footage. He’s had to hire attorneys to defend himself in court. I’m sure he has medical bills his readers don’t even know about. Maintaining the bandwidth for this site has to be costly, and it seems he still wants to make improvements such as the forums in order to allow his readers to engage and take ownership in the cause with him. He may or may not see a financial settlement on his case or it might take years to accomplish.

      I personally hopes he gets a settlement quickly and justly for what he’s endured, as most of us will never truly understand what he’s been through.

      While I think your comment has insight on writing style, after all perception is reality, I must disagree that we as the readers deserve to know if our donations will ever be refunded. Miller is not asking for loans from his readers, he’s asking for help to keep the blog alive and for his legal defense.

      Donations made to a church or charity are never expected to be returned, so why should we ask PINAC to do this?

      My financial situation is not great, and I’m surviving paycheck-to-paycheck. I can’t donate much to the cause, but whatever amount I can donate I will do it without expecting anything in return. I hope his other loyal readers and supporters feel the same.

      p.s. – I think a beer fund for Carlos would be a great cause, after all he’s been through he deserves ‘Miller Time’ every now & again…..

      • dissentingd

        CitizenJane,

        First off, I’d like to thank you for the time it took to respond to me.

        Second, I’d like to say I’m glad that Carlos has had a positive impact on you, as he has me.

        I think you misunderstood slightly what I had to say, but I might not have said it as well as I could have. I don’t think Carlos is in it for himself. What I previously stated was that sometimes what Carlos writes could leave that impression. Its a matter of opinion and depends on the reader. Those of us who have followed Carlos through the years know better, but a new reader may initially perceive him more an intentional instigator or attention-seeker. I don’t believe that those are accurate assessments of the Carlos we have come to respect, but some will still see it that way.

        Carlos certainly is not obligated to return donations towards his criminal case, even IF he wins a big payday in a civil suit. When Carlos replied to my comment a few days ago he made clear that his intention was to put any reward back into this worthy cause we believe in. His word is good enough for me, and my donations will keep coming.

        If you got the impression that I think Carlos isn’t a great guy, hasn’t put up a great fight (of which he has plenty left in him :-) ) or is in it for the wrong reason, then I’m sorry. That’s the opposite of what I think.

        However, people ARE more willing to give if they know what for, so more information on the costs or the destinations will probably lead to more donations, but that is not obligatory, just good business.

        (As to the off-subject mention of charity donations, no, they are not returned. However, generally charities must account and publish their financial statements, so there is some accountability.)

        I’m proud to have been following Carlos for as long as I have, am embarrassed that I haven’t donated more, and am excited about getting more involved. I hope that Carlos can continue to have the impact on others as he has on the likes of you and me.

        As a fellow Floridian, I also hope that some of my beer donations can be made in person as Carlos’s company would be well worth it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.m.gray Jeffrey Marcus Gray

    Just donated! Lets all pitch in. We gotta keep PINAC and Carlos going.

  • Lester TheRockingHorseGuy

    These last three months have been VERY tight for me, but next month looks like it’ll open up a bit. That’s when I will be buying a t-shirt, and try for a donation also. What you’re doing is very important, Carlos, and somehow, we must keep this going.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1053449260 Kathy Walton

    Just made a donation, Carlos, and I’m passing it on. Thank you, so much, for what you do and what you’ll do.

  • http://profiles.google.com/markkalan Mark Kalan

    Rusty, you are a true hero and a true American, I would send Carlos money if I could but I haven’t had a paying assignment since 2006. I put UNEMPLOYED in the occupation box on my joint tax return. Carlos deserves a Pulitzer!

  • Tijuana Joe

    I see Carlos becoming an excellent First Amendment Lawyer some day.
    After all, let’s be honest, the other Amendments were just afterthoughts.

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