Today is the official release date of my book on citizen journalism. You can purchase it here on Amazon.
I’ve always wanted to write a book, always planned on writing a book, but never expected my first book to be a result of an arrest seven years ago for photographing a group of Miami cops, which led to the creation of Photography Is Not A Crime, initially intended to cover my trial.
The trial was delayed for more than a year and resulted in a single conviction (and the acquittal of several other charges).
I appealed the conviction pro se (no lawyer) and had it reversed, but then I had been arrested a second time for photographing cops in a case that was eventually dismissed, then a third time in a case in which I was found not guilty by a jury.
And through it all I documented countless other arrests on the blog, breaking numerous stories which were followed by the mainstream media, inadvertently becoming “the expert” on this issue.
But in hindsight, it was really a result of timing; the rise of Youtube along with the decline in mainstream media coverage, not to mention a rise in police militarization, along with the frustrating reality for cops that they were no longer able to control the message as effectively as they had done for decades, which is why so many of them do all they can to prevent citizens from recording them in public.
The blog taught me that we have great power with the internet, giving us true Freedom of the Press for the first time in history because anybody with a smart phone and an internet connection can shed a light on truth to the world without any editorial filters from corporatized news companies (if you are even lucky enough to have access to the media).
And that is what I hope to teach with this book. That we, the people, yield a tremendous amount of power at our fingertips.
Radley Balko, whom I’ve always credited for being an inspiration for my blog during the early years with his blog, The Agitator; and who now writes for the Washington Post, touched upon this issue in a recent column, mentioning my blog as an example how anybody these days can be Tank Man, the moniker given to the Chinese man who stood in front of a line of tanks during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
The beautiful thing about all of this is that today, anyone can be Tank Man, at least metaphorically. Carlos Miller is a good example. Years ago, Miller was arrested for photographing a police officer. He wrote about that arrest on a blog. After hearing about similar arrests, he started the blog Photography Is Not a Crime. Today, he relentlessly documents cases in which police have violated a citizen’s First Amendment right to record on-duty law enforcement officials. He has also unquestionably been a big reason why that right is now recognized in every state in the country. Miller’s first book comes out this week — a how-to guide to citizen journalism.
I was interviewed by Al Jazeera last month in the video below. One of the questions they asked me, which didn’t make the final cut, was if I was surprised at the success of my blog. The question caught me off-guard because I never really thought about it.
But after thinking about it, I decided I’m not surprised because I’ve worked this blog day and night for more than seven years. There have been many sleepless nights updating the blog, many missed meals ensuring the stories get posted. And many, many conversations and interviews with people who would never be given the time of day by the mainstream media, but whose stories, nevertheless, went viral ten times over.
And I’ve been beaten, arrested, threatened and monitored by Homeland Security simply because I wanted to hold police accountable, which opened the eyes of many people who began to see police in a new light.
And although there have been times over the years when I wanted to call it quits, feeling burned-out and overwhelmed by this issue, you guys, the readers, would not let me quit. And I want to thank you for that because you made me realize just how important is this blog.
And I now have very ambitious plans for the future of the blog, which I will be announcing next week, so there’s no turning back. I’m in for the long haul.
But until then, check out the piece on Al Jazeera.