VID: Cops Harassing Reporters Not a New Thing


On Wednesday, two reporters were arrested while covering the protests over the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post claimed they were assaulted and arrested after failing to vacate a McDonald's quickly enough. The two were released hours later with no official charges filed. 

The arrests of both journalists—in addition to images of an Al Jazeera news team fleeing clouds of tear gas—have raised serious concerns about law enforcement violating freedom of the press. 

Tension between cops and reporters is not a new thing. Back in 2013, Reason TV's Paul Detrick told the story of Shawn Nee, a documentary photographer in Hollywood, California who experienced harassment from the LAPD after he took photos of a domestic dispute while working on a Los Angeles street. 

Originally released on August 7, 2013 and approximately 5 minutes. Original writeup below.

Shawn Nee is an award winning street and documentary photographer living in Hollywood, California. He says that on June 2, 2013, his right to take photos under the First Amendment was violated when Los Angeles Police Department officers detained him while working in Hollywood. Nee wears multiple body cameras on his person when he shoots photos in public and provided an edited version of June 2nd's events exclusively to Reason TV.

"People have the right to take pictures in a public space and that includes photographing [police]," says Nee. "People have the right to know what goes on in their communities and in public."

Nee was standing on a residential sidewalk taking pictures of a man he had been photographing for years when LAPD officers showed up about 90 feet away to investigate a domestic dispute. Nee took photos of the dispute from behind two chain link fences when he was approached by an officer. The transcript was as follows:

OFFICER: What's your name?

NEE: Am I being detained, sir?

OFFICER: How am I detaining you if I've got a fence between me? You want me to come around and detain you? 

NEE: Why would I be detained, sir? 

OFFICER: I'm not detaining you, I'm asking you a question. What's your name? 

NEE: I'm not required to answer that question, sir.

Reason TV showed the video to Andy Neiman, the officer-in-charge at the Media Relations Section at the LAPD. He said he could not comment on the video specically but said of individuals taking pictures, "If their physical proximity to the investigating officers becomes interfering where an officer has to stop what they're doing to admonish that individual that they're too close or could you stand back because they are distracting from the officer's business, then that's where it becomes an issue."

But Nee says he was so far away from the investigation that the officers had to walk down a 60 yard driveway, enter their squad car, and drive to the location where he was taking photographs around the corner from the initial investigation just to detaine him. This is the conversation that happened once they got there:

OFFICER: Could you put your camera down for me?

NEE: Am I being detained, sir?


NEE: For what purpose, sir?

OFFICER: Put your camera down.

NEE: Why am I being detained, sir?

OFFICER: For interviewing … interfering with a police investigation. 

NEE: How was I doing that, sir?

Later, a supervisor, identified as Sergent Rudy V. Vidal showed up and interacted with Nee:

NEE: My understanding is that I was detained for taking photos in a public space.

VIDAL: When it interferes with the job of police then it becomes a problem. At that point, you no longer have that freedom to go ahead and take your pictures.

Sergent Vidal was named as a "problem officer" by the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department (Christopher Commission) in the early 1990s, as reported by the Los Angeles Times in 1995. The Commission named 44 officers with "six or more complaints of excessive force or improper tactics between 1986 and 1990."

Nee is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department along with two other photographers and is represented in that case by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

Nee has been published by National Public Radio, F8 magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and blogs at

Produced by Paul Detrick. Shot by Detrick and Zach Weissmuller.

NEXT: Zenon Evans on Searching the Internet for Contraband

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  1. Here’s a dude who livetweeted as Michael Brown was shot to death.

    Here’s the money shot:

    m a r v a l a c e @_amourlace
    @TheePharoah why did they shoot him?

    Bruh. @TheePharoah
    @_amourlace no reason! He was running!

    This all came out before the Michael Brown shooting became a political issue. That makes me think this guy is telling the truth, and he says Brown was shot twice in the back as he was running away.

    This cop should be arrested immediately. Incidentally, this is from the comments on the site I linked to:

    From what I’m hearing elsewhere, Brown was grabbed by the cop through the cop’s window and Brown then punched the cop in the face, then ran. All this after ignoring being told to quit walking on the street and forcing cars go around them and walk on the sidewalk instead.

    Brown was a punk thug. Too bad his parents didn’t think to teach him manners, honesty and respect. If they had, he’d probably be alive today. Now all they’ll do is blame cops and whitey instead of looking inward as to where they went wrong

    Punching a cop once in the face does not give him the right to shoot you to death from behind. Conservatives can be such fucking scum.

    1. Unarmed does not equal not dangerous. Running away is out of context. Did he struggle for the officer’s weapon? Some witnesses say there was a struggle, no knowledge of why. When he ran, did he say he was going to shoot the cop (even though he had no gun, the police wouldn’t know that)? Did he say he was going to get revenge? Go and get backup? By all accounts except the kid who was with him – the one that had just robbed the store with him – there was a struggle with Brown in the officer’s window. Answer me this: How did Brown get in the cop’s reach if the cop never left the car at first?

      Scumbag. Someone saying ‘I’m going to kill you’ does not give you the right to shoot them to death. The arguments of these cop fellators are really getting ridiculous.

      1. Answer me this: How did Brown get in the cop’s reach if the cop never left the car at first?

        Uhh…the cop pulled his cruiser along side him?

        Have any more brain-teasers, Edward Nygma?

      2. Was talking to a guy at the range, who had to pull a gun on some crazy motherfucker. The sight of the weapon made him keep his distance, but he kept yelling shit, including several threats of death.

        Imagine if this guy had dropped the hammer on Mr. Angry Yeller. He’d be indicted for murder the next day. Fucking cops really do think they have a license to kill.

        1. They don’t think they have one, they do have one.

          1. You get locked out of brunch?

            1. No, going to brunch shortly. I had to lift first.

      3. Someone saying ‘I’m going to kill you’ does not give you the right to shoot them to death.

        It sure as Hell does give you the right if it is reasonable to believe the speaker means it.

        1. No. Only if they mean it and they have the means to immediately do it. Somebody running away does not fit that description.

    2. Lyle sure gets around.

    3. Too bad his parents didn’t think to teach him manners, honesty and respect. If they had, he’d probably be alive today.

      You know, he’s right about that. If Brown had the common sense God gave the lowly rat, he’d have known that you don’t do shit that can bring attention to yourself right after committing a crime.

      If he’d been walking on the sidewalk the chances the cop would have bothered to stop to fuck with him would have been vastly lower, no stop means no confrontation, no confrontation means no need for the cop to ‘exert his authority’ by shooting the guy in the back.

      Though all these analysis that support the shooting still seem to fail to understand that Brown wasn’t shot because he was a suspected dangerous felon, he was shot because he didn’t respect ‘authority’.

      1. I have held my tounge so far on this case, but now that more info is out I can see that there are no good guys in this story.

        I think you nailed it pretty well.

        1. That’s what infuriates me about the media shitstorm. They always pick some case to highlight where the victim was a borderline thug and then run with the racial angle instead of highlighting one of the numerous cases where a complete innocent, or mentally ill person is flat out murdered for no reason.

          Fuck the media.

    4. What’s so repulsive about it is the cocksucking of authority that they so enthusiastically engage in. Disrespect of authority is worthy of death. That is explicitly what they are saying. Think about that. Disrespecting an authority figure should be punishable by death.

      And these are the first people that would crow about the Revolution and fighting back against the King and shit. Their cognitive dissonance is as bad as a progressive’s. They really think they are for freedom and liberty…so long as you kiss authority’s ass.

  2. Thug life is a short life.

  3. Assuming this guy is a liberal and supports big government – probably a safe assumption – then it is kind of hard to feel bad for him. If you don’t want to have to deal with totalitarians, stop supporting totalitarian policies and politicians.

  4. Fox news reporting cops now letting looters loot

    1. I do miss the Korean shop owners.

    2. Fox news reporting cops now letting looters loot

      I don’t blame them. What do you think will happen if they drag out a looter of color, and subdue him on video? The smart move is to document, photograph, and investigate later. If they try to stop them, they could get hurt or be the victim of a political witch hunt.

      1. I do. It’s their fucking job; don’t excuse them for not doing it.

    3. I wonder what this neighborhood will look like in a year?

      *finger to chin, stares off into distance*

    4. Oh, what would we do without our heroes in bluebody armor to protect us? Oh, never mind.

  5. For the record, I have heard (I can’t remember where) the reason the reporters were arrested was the reporters were using the McDonald’s as a workplace and apparently overstayed their welcome. They were asked to leave by a McDonald’s employee and when they refused the store called the cops and they were arrested. No idea whether it is true or not. Just putting it out there.

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised. Then again, I don’t have much sympathy for the media. If I had to give up one constitutional right, it’d be freedom of the press in a heartbeat. It’s not like it’s doing us much good, anyway.

  6. MSNBC guy to liberals: Stop saying nice things about Rand Paul!

    He is flatly wrong to suggest that there has been an “erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows police to become judge and jury.” Maybe that’s the case for white America, but certainly not for black America or communities of color. There is no “erosion” of civil rights and liberties because on some level, local police have never respected the rights and liberties of African-American communities. Black bodies have always been subject to surveillance, suspicion, illegal and unconstitutional search and seizures, brutality and ? as we’ve tragically witnessed for the third time this week ? murder. Murder of unarmed black people at the hands of local police. These lethal and violent deaths of black citizens ? again, nearly two times a week ? are not the result of “big government,” but small government at its worst.


    Since Reconstruction the federal government has been the primary instrument for advancing racial justice in America. Let us not forget that Senator Paul is on record saying he would have opposed portions of the most significant piece of legislation advancing racial equality sixty years ago: the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If he really cares about black life in America, then his ideology, positions and policies should reflect that. But I’m not fooled, and you shouldn’t be either.

    1. are not the result of “big government,” but small government at its worst.

      Derp derp derp.

      1. I seem to recall this massive, concerted effort by the Federal government to crackdown on illegal drugs.

        You think maybe that’s an example of ‘Big Government’ hurting minorities but utilizing regulatory power it should not have?

        1. Big government is just made up of lots of small government. Therefore this is all the Tea Party’s fault.


      2. Cops just go around shootin’ blacks with no pretense. They’re not out trying to enforce myriad stupid laws or anything like that.

    2. At least progs are honest enough to admit they’re our enemies instead of constantly trying to make nice with people who despise everything they stand for.

      It’s refreshing compared to Reason’s editorial stance, which seems to be that we should play nice with people who hate us and stand for everything to which we are opposed.

      1. I’d put that on the fact that most of Reason’s staff aren’t libertarians, but liberals writing articles about libertarians.

        1. Given that not a few of their policy prescriptions would have the effect of putting liberals in power permanently, I’m starting to think they’re one leg of a “scissors strategy”. If the left doesn’t win outright, they still win eventually if the cosmotarians come to power.

        2. Ah, the constant bellyache of one our more ‘right leaning’ regulars here that the Readon writers are not libertarians but closet liberals (and no refutations, just some agreements in response!). It’s not that Reason writers have the problem, but you, just mirror reflected.

          How did so many of these people get to be such a staple here, and largely unopposed?

          1. Dude. Dave Weigel and KmW are at least a couple of staffers who have outed themselves as progs.

            Yes, “most” is a huge exaggeration. It is an exaggeration which would likely not be engaged in if we didn’t keep getting fed bullshit about how millenials are the best thing since sliced bread and jamming out to alliances with Ralph Nader, of all people. Allying with Nader or waxing nostalgic about some dried-up commie in a fawning obituary is just as sick a joke to play on libertarianism as suggesting that Rick Santorum is secretly all about that libertarianism.

            1. Dave Weigel and KmW are at least a couple of staffers who have outed themselves as progs.

              Howley is an admitted prog who says she only did the libertarian thing to take money from the 1%.

              KMW is the furthest thing from a prog unless she’s disavowing that Yale magazine article she wrote as an undergrad.

            2. I think I could simply repeat my earlier comment, made more true by you and SIV joining the complaining, so I’ll just refer back to it.

              It says more about you than the Reason staff. They’ve written about alliances with Grover Norquist as much as Ralph Nader and their posts about Millenials are done because they had a grant funded poll of them and because they are the future electorate (and one that seems more receptive to at least some major libertarian positions than previous generations).

              1. Grover Norquist isn’t even close to the equivalent of Nader. Norquist serves on the board of GOProud, and his most well-known political activism is in service of libertarian causes (particularly taxes). He supports higher immigration, supported the mosque in Manhattan, supports leaving Afghanistan and a number of other libertarian causes. Along with Matt Kibbe, he is one of the few effective classical liberals out there.

                Nader is known for being a “consumer advocate” and has successfully pushed through copious amounts of legislation and regulation because, in his own words, “The consumer must be protected at times from his own indiscretion and vanity.” He opposes everything from nuclear energy to all-you-can-eat deals at baseball stadiums on these auspices.

                You being you, I can understand how you would not see the difference in between an anti-tax crusader and Upton Sinclair’s reincarnation. Those of us who do aren’t so eager to jump on that cattle car.

          2. You’re incredibly fucking tiresome and of no value whatsoever.

          3. “Ah, the constant bellyache ”

            You should change that to your screename.

            1. So you don’t understand ‘bellyaching’ among other things…

        3. I’d put that on the fact that most of Reason’s staff aren’t libertarians, but liberals writing articles about libertarians

          The jig is up!

    3. Shorter MSNBC guy: “What Germa…er…America needs now is a STRONG MAN!”

    4. Since Reconstruction the federal government has been the primary instrument for advancing racial justice in America.

      Hey, Dorian? I just consulted my Ouija board; Booker T. Washington and Zora Neale Hurston say “Fuck you”.

      1. Bo will be on to tell you how they’re just Uncle Toms and don’t count.

        1. Ride the Derp!

          1. But at least they’re not Jooooooooos.

            Right, bo?

    5. Since Reconstruction the federal government has been the primary instrument for advancing racial justice in America.

      He does know the right buttons to push on Gillespie and Welch.

  7. Actually, the sequence of events starts to make sense if Brown didn’t actually steal any cigars.

    He’s in the convenience store and gets accused of being a shoplifter.

    He gets pissed off and gets in a physical confrontation with a store employee who tried to stop him from leaving and then he stomps out.

    He starts walking down the middle of the street…because he’s a pissed off 18 year old and Fuck You That’s Why.

    Cop pulls up next to him and is like, “What’s your fucking problem?”

    “Fuck you, pig!”


    If he actually stole the cigars, none of it makes any sense. An actual thief would, you know, run and hide.

    Were there any cigars on the body?

    1. A post by “beanfield|8.16.14 @ 12:01AM” on a previous thread addressed what the officer knew at the time.

      It indicates that the officer didn’t initially regard them as suspects, but then he noticed cigars in Brown’s hands.

  8. This is the St. Louis County prosecutor. He has control of this case, and refuses to give it up.

    No matter the facts, there is absolutely zero chance for justice in this case.

    1. That guy is nearly out of central casting. Wow. The whole missing leg thing is a nice twist, but otherwise it’s just perfect.

      Also, this: He is running unopposed for reelection in November is not a healthy sign.

      1. I recall the one-armed stranger in The Fugitive – let’s put him up against the one-legged prosecutor!

  9. Slap Jammy JoJo is not going to like that at all man.

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