Minneapolis Police Arrest Man for Photographing Arrest

The photo that prompted Minneapolis police to arrest Paul Leason (Photo by Paul Leason)


When Paul Leason spotted a group of Minneapolis police officers making an arrest, he pulled out his camera and began taking photos from a public sidewalk.

One of the officers spotted him and ordered him to keep walking.

Leason, 23, a member of Cop Block, knew his rights and asserted them, which as we all know, is the quickest way to land in jail.

One officer told him to “get the fuck out of here.”

Leason responded by saying “fuck the police.”

Next thing he knew, he was surrounded by three cops who kept calling him “faggot.”

This is how he explained it in an email to Photography is Not a Crime:

I felt as if they were trying to make me fight them. I remained calm but did voice my opinion that what they were doing was wrong. I tried to record the conversation when one of them smacked the phone out of my hand. I was then put into a headlock, handcuffed and arrested. My friend tried to calm the officers down but one of them shoved him into the ditch.

The incident took place on October 13 as Leason participated in an event called Zombie Pub Crawl, which meant there was a multitude of other people standing or strolling on the same sidewalk witnessing the initial arrest.

But Leason was the only one who decided to take pictures.

Leason was charged with disorderly conduct, spending six hours in jail.

During the initial hearing, an officer testified that they feared Leason was going to hit them; that old “fearing for their life” routine that makes them come across as terrified pansies.

The court offered him a plea deal where the disorderly conduct charge would remain on his record in exchange for $350, which he didn’t accept.

So now the case is pending with no definite trial date set.

They also kept his wallet and other important items.

They took my wallet and I never saw it again. It was a weekend wallet with my ID, American Express, debit card, permit to carry card and $10.53 cash. Cash and ID were returned to me when I was released but never anything else. I have the number to call but gave up after sitting on hold for an hour. I had extras of the permit to carry and my ID already because I figured if something like this happened I would want spares. They came in handy. I had a friend along who witnessed the whole event. He tried to get the officers to calm down and was pushed into the grass. They also ID’ed him

The bloody palm print of the man that Minneapolis were arresting when Paul Leason came along and started taking photos. (Photo by Paul Leason)

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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  • http://twitter.com/kylejack Name

    I’d like to know more about the bloody palm print. Sounds like they were really doing a number on that guy.

    • http://www.WebmasterCoupons.net/ Mike

      It was the “Zombie Pub Crawl”, most of the participants had fake blood or fake wounds on them.

  • Joel Turner

    Like a commenter once said;
    “They wonder why we don’t cry when one of theirs gets their head blown off .”

    • Rail Car Fan

      And there are some of those (Cops Can Do NO Wrong!) posters here who wonder why the public is so much “Anti Cop”! Maybe if you Boys and Girls in blue would stop being the “Badge Bullies” that you are, you’d find things might go better when interacting with the public.

      Rail Car Fan

  • Prefiero Figurados

    As a photographer and PINAC fan, I appreciate our rights as much as anyone else. My run-in was with a National Park Service guard/cop who tried to kick me out of an NPS memorial in D.C. for “unauthorized professional photography” because he thought my camera equipment was “too nice” for someone engaging in non-professional “tourist” photography. Now I’m a PINAC fan.

    But I’m getting sick hearing how so-n-so said “F**K the police!!” or whatever, and then the story gets reported as if some kindly gentleman with a camera as the victim of an unprovoked brutal arrest out of the clear blue sky. Being a complete douche bag never helps in any situation, least of all where you’re trying to project yourself as an upstanding citizen harmlessly and unobtrusively engaging in your civil rights. It also doesn’t help *anybody* on our side of the viewfinder.

    • Difdi

      You have the right to be a jerk. Violating rights on the other hand, is a federal crime.

      • Jon Quimbly

        A federal crime that will take a very long time to reach justice, if it ever does. In a case like this, where apparently there’s no video or audio recording of the encounter, you’d be screwed.

        If you want to be a jerk to cops, go in prepared with video, and bring backup -others to tape from other angles. And to bail you out, because if what you’re after is getting into arguments with cops, you’re not gonna get much sympathy from them, the DA or a jury.

        • jarhead1982

          Actually if your going to do such a pub crawl with dozen or two, ALL of you photograph the incident, they cant stop EVERYONE!

    • steveo

      thanks troll cop

      • Prefiero Figurados

        I’m not quite sure what you’re meaning. If you’re insinuating that I’m a cop (or anything of the sort) then I’m not sure what to tell ya. I’m a web applications developer, not involved with law enforcement in any way… well, other than being on the receiving end =)

        • Difdi

          You made a reasonable statement. To the extremists and loonies, that makes you an apologist.

        • putaro

          The thing is, that as a cop you’re doing your job and you get paid. Part of doing your job is putting up with rude comments. As a police officer you are given a huge amount of authority – you have a gun, taser, baton, etc. that you can use to enforce your will on citizens. I want to see the police only using that force in a lawful way.

          If someone mouths off to me, as a private citizen, and I pull out a baton and smack the crap out of them, I’m going to jail. Why should the police be any different? “Contempt of cop” or “lese majeste” is not a valid reason for arresting or injuring someone.

          What really steams me about these cases is that if the police do injury to you, really hurt you, in an unlawful way, your recourse is to go to court. Years later you may get some kind of a cash settlement but the people who injured you go on their way with, at most, a reprimand usually.

    • PavePusher

      And yet it’s still not an excuse for police to abuse ANYONE.

      • Prefiero Figurados

        I never said — or even hinted — that is was.

        I was thinking earlier about the great leaders in civil rights history; Ghandi, MLK, Susan B. Anthony, and others. We would do well to take note of their success and their magnanimous demeanor. MLK asserted his rights, won freedoms, changed society and laws by marching with signs that simply said “I AM A MAN”, not “F**K THE POLICE”. Though he had the first amendment right to express either of those, he chose to confront indignity and injustice with dignity and truth. That’s the path I want to follow, and the path I’d like to see other like-minded PINAC types follow, too. Every movement has its embarrassing trouble-making component, and like previous movements, we need not highlight those as “helping” us in any way. It doesn’t. Again, remember the successes and methods of whose who went before us. Let’s add to their accomplishments with dignity.

  • Jon Quimbly

    > Leason responded by saying “fuck the police.”

    Contempt of cop, pure and simple. Sure these cops were dicks, but if your goal is to video/photograph the scene and the police, to get evidence of whatever, don’t provoke! You provoked them.

    Simple rule for photographing crime scenes: be nice to cops. Reduces the chance of a negative confrontation that might result in your arrest, and it can also earn you a deposit in the trust bank, for future situations. Take off your activist hat, put on your journalist hat. Or buy a long telephoto lens and get out of harm’s way.

    And ferchrissakes, buy a goddamned concealed video camera already. Otherwise, you’re just gonna keep getting arrested, and we the public won’t get to see what the hell happened. Endless loop.

    • Paul

      I got caught in the moment. Normally I would not have engaged in conversation.

    • Difdi

      Not paying protection money to the mafia provokes them. But nobody ever suggests that doing so would make their response lawful.

    • Jeremy Lindsey

      Freedom of speech against a public official is not justification. If they are that easily provoked then there in lies the problem. It makes them nothing more than thugs who can not be trusted with the confidence of the public. Freedom of speech is not an arrestable offense and should not be tolerated.

      • sfmc98

        Juries tend to be far more sympathetic to someone who is polite to police, no matter how rude or belligerent the police are to them.

      • Jon Quimbly

        Sure it’s a problem, been so for as long as cops have existed. So learn to think tactically, when dealing with a public official who has the power to toss you in the clink under a purposely nebulous law, just for spite -earning you an arrest record. Their power to harass you is 1000x greater than yours.

        Cops like that give zero shits about your freedom of speech. Winning on the First Amendment point can take forever in the courts, and it’s their word against yours (w/o video). As journalists, we gotta be careful about crossing the line, from getting the story, to being the story. If that’s what you want, go ahead and stick your wang in the hornet’s nest.

        But if it’s to get the shot or footage that tells the story, treat them like human beings. Even if you don’t expect them to reciprocate. That’s the golden rule. They might surprise you. Listen to how Carlos deals with cops in his videos. On point about his rights, and polite. sfmc98’s point about juries is on the money, also.

        Protect your freedom of speech like it’s a vulnerable baby, not a weapon. And get a covert video camera.

        • Difdi

          Plus even when you do win, more than 99% of the time the officer who violated your rights doesn’t have to pay a penny. The taxpayer-funded insurance policy the city has pays.

          Treating them decently is only good sense. If you meet a bad cop, nothing you can say or do will make him be anything but a bad cop. But if you meet a decent cop (and they do exist) then treating him decently means you probably won’t have a problem with him. But if you treat all cops like shit, then all cop encounters you have will always be bad ones for you.

    • bob

      Wow dude you’re a complete asshole. You’re blaming the victim.

      • Black Bellamy

        What specifically that JQ said you don’t agree with?

  • Difdi

    The police were afraid Leason would hit them, so they felt justified in making homophobic slurs, assaulting him and his friend, and making a false arrest. And the system looks the other way.

    How would the system react if Leason had done the same things to the police, because he was afraid (justifiably) that they would hit him?

    How is it that police departments don’t fall under the RICO Act?

    • Jon Quimbly

      We all get where you’re coming from, but that’s how the system is rigged. Accept it. If you really want to catch cops in the act of illegal arrests, fight back better. Buy a police scanner, a motorcycle and a video camera with a long lens. Or buy a bunch of cheap concealed video cameras, give them to your friends, and passively record these events.

      Strange hobby, though. I gotta ask, what got you all interested in Cop Block -friends getting arrested? Honest question.

      • Difdi

        I’m not particularly interested in Cop Block. I just read blogs that link there occasionally. This one among them. Most of the Cop Block denizens are loonies.

        Cop Watching is not the same as Cop Blocking. People who hang out on Cop Block see police as The Enemy. Cop Watchers are amateur journalists who specialize in keeping police honest.

        • Pete Eyre

          Difdi –

          from: http://copblock.org/about

          “We do not “hate cops.” We believe that no one – not even those with badges – has extra rights. The failure to realize and act on that is to our detriment. By focusing the disinfecting light of transparency on public officials we safeguard
          not just our rights but those of future generations.”

          Cop Block is decentralized.

          I know I don’t “hate” someone due to their profession. I know I could have been there myself and recognize that, if that were the case and someone approached me with hostility, I’d be less-receptive to have an open-mind. I definitely wouldn’t consider alternative means (not coercive but consensual interactions) to achieve the desired ends. I share that perspective with other Copblockers. My goal is a peaceful evolution, one mind at time. Hate isn’t in the equation.

  • John Howard

    He lost me at “fuck the police”.

    • Rob

      Really? That’s where I gained the most respect for him. Stupid comment or not, the guy has balls that clank. Turns out his comment was justified.

      • John Howard

        Wow, that sort of language garners respect? I must be getting old.

        • Difdi

          According to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying things like “fuck the police”, raising your middle finger to a cop and the like are protected speech. Part of that whole constitution-thingy police swear oaths to protect.

          If exercise of constitutional rights makes someone your enemy, consider the possibility that you might be a domestic enemy of the constitution?

          • John Howard

            Didn’t say enemy. Don’t put words in my mouth. I only contend it’s tasteless, not to mention, unproductive to the cause. The guy a couple days ago who stood his ground and pelted the cops with facts and law, doing so civilly (i.e., without profanity, the sharpest weapon of the immature and uniniformed). Note by the way, THAT guy wasn’t arrested. He beat down the cops arguments every which way and they backed off. THAT, friend, was s REAL win for photojournalism.

  • SMHoff

    I would like to know the names of the police officers that did this.

    • Pete Eyre

      Toddrick Kurth
      Twila Villella
      Charles Adams III
      Michael Frye

      from Mpls PD 1st Precinct – (612) 673-5701

      This info and a repost of Carlos’ post will soon be live at http://copblock.org

  • Tijuana Joe

    I’m glad I didn’t resort to an F bomb when I had my 15 minutes of video fame.
    Legal, but not particularly smart. Remember it was *police* pugnacity amd brutality that got us upset in the first place. Let’s act more civilly than they do.

  • steveo

    I personally would swear at them in a foreign language like Spanish, call them pendejos, hijo de putas, cujo de burros, or jodido de madres. then they wouldn’t know what you are saying and the jury wouldn’t know either.

  • Paul leason

    All charges dropped!! Now trying to get my money back for bail