Dallas Area Rapid Transit cops arrested photographer Avi Adelman in Rosa Parks Plaza, while photographing EMTs administering aid to a catatonic man Tuesday of last week.
On Wednesday of this week, DART issued a statement dropping all charges against PINAC reporter Adelman, as you can see below.
Ironically, the cops who chose to ignore Adelman’s civil rights, did so in a plaza named after the bus-riding civil rights legend Rosa Parks, who was arrested for riding in the front of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama decades ago.
A careful review of the facts show that Adelman was in fact, arrested in a traditional public expressive fora, engaged in protected free speech.
Federal lawsuits filed by citizens against their local governments for abridging free speech activities have been won in far less clear circumstances than these.
In fact, Adelman himself successfully lobbied DART just 18 months ago to remove “No Photography” signs, which he considered an illegal attempt at prior restraint back in 2014.
This quintessentially Texas story of censorship on public property, under the guise of public safety has received a broad range of local coverage, which can only be characterized in terms of the wild west.
There’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Dallas Observer’s Eric Nicholson did an outstanding job of explaining not only Avi Adelman’s arrest last week, but also provided details about Adelman’s history with law enforcement. It’s rare that we see such a definitive and factually accurate story from a Texas news outlet in dealing with the police. Nicholson’s account is peppered with relevant case law and a quotation from the Dallas Fire-Rescue too.
That’s the good, and here’s the condensed facts reported by the Dallas Observer:
The evening started out innocently enough. Adelman’s wife was at a meeting at their daughter’s school, which left Adelman to take care of dinner. The plan was that she’d text him when she was preparing to leave, at which point he’d buy tacos from Fuel City on Riverfront Boulevard. That way, the food would still be hot when they rendezvoused back at their home in East Dallas. Adelman arrived downtown with about an hour to kill, so he put in his earpiece and turned on a police scanner. On Tuesday night his police scanner led him first to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where police and paramedics were tending to a man standing in the driveway wearing a hospital robe, with an IV pole. Adelman stood what he estimates to be 35 feet away and began taking pictures — “No flash, high speed, about 1200 ASA, wide open lens.” The first responders ignored him.
Next came a call from DART’s Rosa Parks Plaza for a “guy who was obviously in a catatonic state,” Adelman says, presumably the latest K2 victim. Again, Adelman stood back and began taking rapid-fire pictures. “Some time in there, the lady — a uniformed DART police officer — comes up and says, ‘You need to leave, you can’t take pictures.’ She says ‘This is a private issue, you can’t be here.’” Adelman disagreed. The synthetic cannabinoid user was in a public place and therefore had no reasonable expectation of privacy. And federal privacy law protecting the confidentiality of medical records doesn’t prevent bystanders from taking pictures of a medical emergency.
Adelman said the officer did not like being disagreed with and told him to leave. “ Which,” he says, “is the worst thing you can say because you’re saying the photographer has to leave but no one else does.” Generally, courts have held that a photographer has the same right to be in a public space as someone without a camera, and there were plenty of others milling about. Adelman says the officer then demanded his ID; Adelman said he’d show it to her only if she told him if and why he was being detained. They went back and forth like this for a couple of minutes “I go, ‘Am I being detained?’ She says, ‘Yes.’ That’s when she puts me in handcuffs.” Adelman, in what he frames as a friendly suggestion rather than a “do-you-know-who-I-am?” ego trip, suggested they call DART’s police chief. “You might want to tell him who I am before you do this,” he told them. They ignored him. Adelman was charged with criminal trespassing. His wife, who had finally given up on Fuel City and fixed herself dinner, got his call from the jail at about 9:30 Tuesday night. She posted bond the next morning, and Adelman saw the sunlight again at about 4:30 the following afternoon.
Unfortunately, The Dallas Morning News’ report of the incident, included police quotes, but failed to reach out to Adelman for comment on the story.
Their coverage concluded by saying that Adelman, “has squared off with Dallas police and other law-enforcement agencies before about his photographs during emergency situations. Last year he angered the Dallas Police Association by photographing a Dallas police officer who suffered a heart attack on the Santa Fe Bike trail.”
The ending of their coverage conveniently forgot that Adelman has co-hosted events with the Dallas Police Department on how to copwatch properly. Adelman tells PINAC News that Julie Fancher did not ask him for comment on her story in Dallas’ newspaper of record.
Failing to reach out for comment, concluding a story with leading facts and omitting other pertinent facts?
That’s bad form.
The “Downtown Dallas Examiner” went straight over the top with a lengthy and factually incorrect story purporting that the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority is somehow not a public agency, and should be allowed to censor citizens taking photos in its public plazas, and cited some odd case law about a criminal trespass with warning case decided against a citizen.
Journalists are allowed to use secret sources, but are supposed to do so under the most extreme circumstances, which doesn’t seem to be the case withDowntown Dallas Examiner’s coverage of Adelman’s arrest.
The AP’s style guide – which sets journalistic standards for the wire service, and many other publciations – notes three distinct reasons for resorting to an anonymous source in publication:
- The material is information and not opinion or speculation, and is vital to the news report.
- The information is not available except under the conditions of anonymity imposed by the source.
- The source is reliable, and in a position to have accurate information.
But the Downtown Dallas Examiner included these anonymous gems of opinion about Adelman, that he is “stirring up trouble” and simply seeking to, “use downtown as a springboard to feed his ego and become relevant again.”
Conveniently, the Examiner’s writer entirely ignored the concept of public interest in journalism and fact based reporting, in what appears to be neighborhood boosterism gone seriously wrong.
If the Examiner is to be fully believed, likely nobody would have the right to record or photograph in public places, but they didn’t stop there with lousy journalism habits.
“While Adelman’s supporters have been vocal by alleging his First Amendment rights were trampled, the case is actually not that clear- cut because DART property is considered private.”
Being wrong on the facts to get your point across?
Let’s start by answering the question; Is Rosa Parks Plaza owned by DART?
The answer is an emphatic yes.
The Dallas Central Appraisal District confirms absolutely that Rosa Parks Plaza – aka 901 Elm Street – is in fact owned by DART.
Sec. 452.052. NATURE OF AUTHORITY. (a) An authority:
(1) is a public political entity and corporate body;
(2) has perpetual succession; and
(3) exercises public and essential governmental functions.
It does not take a lawyer to understand that DART is not a private agency, nor is it a public/private partnership either.
The above text strongly indicates that DART’s propery is public property, it is a government agency.
More specifically, a public plaza’s use is no different than that of a park or a sidewalk or any of the other “traditional expressive fora” which make up the places where First Amendment activities are protected the strongest.
It’s a proverbial town square.
In fact, the official website announcing the park specifically describes Rosa Parks Plaza thusly as, “Connecting citizens to a monumental time in public transit history, as well as to the future of public transit in North Texas, this park-like-setting will serve as an oasis for the downtown West End community and meet the needs of 1,400 daily bus customers.”
This important fact – that the statements by DART indicate Rosa Parks Plaza is not solely a transit facility, but rather a public park with transit accessibility meant to serve the entire community – means that the Dallas Examiners’ citation of a case where DART successfully trespassed a beleaguered citizen from a transit station, with warning, on his second visit for “loitering” is not applicable to Avi Adelman’s case which happened inside a public plaza owned by a public political entity.
Ultimately, statements made to Dallas’ Fox News affiliate by DART conflicted with statements by Dallas Fire Rescue, which probably threw into question why the DART cops arrested Adelman in the first place.
Statement by DART Public Information Officer Morgan Lyons:
“Photography is allowed in our public spaces, but we also expect people to comply with the instructions of a police officer. He was asked repeatedly to back away while paramedics treated someone. He repeatedly refused to comply with the officers so he was arrested.”
Statement by Dallas Fire Rescue Department Public Information Officer Jason Evans:
“At no point were any requests made to ask Mr. Adelman to leave the scene and/or stop taking pictures. In addition, there were no requests made to (DART) officers to ask him to leave the scene and/or stop taking pictures.”
Considering the conflicting comments, it’s hard to understand what made DART’s police imagine there was a criminal act occurring, because photography is not a crime.
Sadly, police and some citizens alike characterize these kinds of arrests as a form of “catch and release”, but for the accused, it’s a life ordeal costing money for bail, time away from family and work and creating legal jeopardy where none should exist.
“I spent a night in jail – 830pm Tuesday to 430pm Wednesday,” said Adelman.
“I had to steal money from my daughter’s London trip fund with some high school classmates on Spring break, and trying to make it up. It was just another big financial hit after being out of work for six months, starting a part-time job and some expensive plumbing repairs.”