Louisiana police suspended the First Amendment during mass protests in Baton Rouge over the weekend, sweeping up journalists and protesters alike for exercising their rights to free speech.
According to a recent article he wrote about his experience, the self-proclaimed “strong supporter” of law enforcement apparently left the jail with a slightly different perspective than he had before going in.
“I did nothing to break the law. I was not obstructing traffic because with the road closed and police blocking the lane, there was no traffic,” Stranahan wrote.
“At no point did I hear the police give any order for me or anyone else to stay back. I was given no warning whatsoever; I was simply approached and forced to stop recording.”
Stranahan had just gotten done recording the 20-second clip below when police approached him.
He was on the front lines in the midst of video-recording footage of protestors for his upcoming movie The Bloody Road to Cleveland when, without warning, police approached him, grabbed his camera, handcuffed him and placed him under arrest, which can be seen in the clip below.
Even though photography is not a crime, and even though police were the ones obstructing the roadway, Stranahan was arrested for obstructing a highway, according to theadvertiser.com.
“The police took my camera and put a temporary pair of handcuffs on me. I was taken across the street and into the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters for initial processing. There were about 15 other [Black Lives Matter] protesters being brought into the system at the same time; arrests were going on throughout the night.”
Although an admitted police supporter, Stranahan issued a bit of criticism towards the way law enforcement handled not only his arrest, but the arrests of protestors he disagrees with as well, although he placed most of the blame on the politicians who set policy.
“It turned out that I was one of three reporters arrested that night, and it seems to me that reporters were very clearly targeted. I believe that officials in Baton Rouge would simply like this whole thing to go away and naïvely thought that stopping the messenger would help,” he wrote.
During the process of his arrest, Stranahan observed most protestors being arrested were acting respectfully towards law enforcement.
While being booked, he recognized two activists he’d met the night before.
“I noticed a 16-year-old girl whom I recognized being processed close to me. The night before, I had spoken to her and her father; they had both seemed soft-spoken and intelligent but committed to exposing what they saw as injustice in the legal system here in Baton Rouge.”
Shortly after, he recognized a well-known Black Lives Matter activist, DeRay Mckesson.
“DeRay!” he shouted.
After a couple of hours at the jail, Stranahan was placed in a 20 foot x 20 foot cell with about 30 other folks, mostly activists and protestors, and stated, “at no point had I been told that I was arrested, what I was being detained for specifically, or my rights.”
Most of the prisoners, in Stranahan’s cell at least, were black.
Although one he called a “good-natured, leftist activist” named Sean was there to show solidarity, along with the 50-year-old who’d been arrested with his daughter.
Another member of the group was Johnny, who seemed to know everyone who worked in the prison, and whom the prison officers knew, too, since he’d been to jail a lot before he retired from his previous life of crime and drugs.
“The guards clearly enjoyed their banter with him, and there was a lot of laughter,” wrote Stranahan.
He and Johnny talked about film, film-editing software and made jokes about how they ended up in jail when they didn’t actually break the law.
During that time, they rapped it up throughout the night talking about what they did for a living on the outside, told jokes, and talked Trump vs. Clinton. He was surprised to find nobody in his cell supported Clinton.
One of his black cellmates intended to vote for Trump.
Stranahan shared what he did for a living, which brought more curiosity than hostility.
“I was open with everyone about what I did for a living and that I work for a conservative website, as well as being a Republican,” he reported.
According to Stranahan, Johnny shared useful information about the process at the jail, which he was unfamiliar with that helped him understand the process of being released since he’d never been arrested before.
Eventually, Sean, the leftists from New Orleans, was a resource as well.
“After the first couple of hours, Sean, the white leftist from New Orleans, was able to get the number of the National Lawyers Guild in Baton Rouge. I have been a major critic of the NLG, the Institutional Left group that was founded by communist attorneys and that has protected people and groups that I find repugnant.”
“That being said: in this case, thank God for the National Lawyers Guild,” he praised.
After the Lawyer’s Guild paid his bond, Stranahan expected to be released.
“But the authorities had other plans,” he stated. “I believe things were happening to slow down the process of release.”
For the next eight hours, they were moved around the jail for the classification process, went to commissary, watched a video about prison rape and saw medical, where they told him medication for his diabetes wasn’t available, since it was Sunday.
“Thank goodness people don’t need medication on Sunday,” he reportedly thought to himself.
Stranahan was then moved to a classification line and housed with several people unable to post their bond, and others serving their sentences.
“I met some of my temporary cellmates, including a man who’d been convicted of second-degree murder for stabbing his wife in the neck after a domestic disturbance and another young man who told me he had been brought in on seven felony charges and was facing a bond of $300,000. This was the situation I found myself in for filming a demonstration and facing a charge that was so minor that the bond was $250.”
After a couple more hours, his name was called and he waited another hour and a half while being processed out of the jail and eventually left a free man.
He called the Lawyer’s Guild to check in and express his gratitude for helping him out of the situation he found himself in.
In his final thoughts, Stranahan seemed to express somewhat of an epiphany, and an enlightened perspective one might not expect from a right-wing propagandist and Black Lives Matter critic.
“When I see police and protesters clashing in the streets, I don’t see the problems that they both face being solved,” he said. “A new approach is clearly needed, one that combines active listening and basic respect with an uncompromising commitment to the truth—not just in words, but in action.”
Now, if only we can find identify as humans who have a vested interest in sitting at the proverbial table to find pragmatic solutions to ending government abuse, we could convince the powers that be to take action in order to solve the problems we all face within police culture.
Then we can move on to solving other issues to better humanity.
“I treated every person I met—protestors and police—with respect and humanity,” Stranahan said about his experience being incarcerated with the same people he came to Baton Rouge to criticize. “I didn’t make anyone “earn” this basic level of respect or approach them with a chip on my shoulder. I looked people in the eye, and I listened.”
That’s exactly what it’s going to take before this issue is solved: a little respect and humanity from both sides.
Thinking outside of the left-right paradigm.
Realizing that the idea of police accountability isn’t an extreme idea.
And doing something many of us aren’t very good at.
Apparently, that’s much easier to do when our freedom is taken and we’re forced sit at the same table, or in this case, the same jail cell, and work together with our so-called enemies to solve problems regarding our liberty and freedom.
Because freedom and liberty isn’t just for right-wingers or leftists.
It’s for all of us, even those who don’t identify with today’s political paradigms.