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 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.
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