A photojournalist who was arrested Monday night while covering a protest over the killing of Jordan Neely is demanding her charges be dropped.
Prominent photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist Stephanie Keith stood beside her lawyer in Lower Manhattan on Thursday and called upon the NYPD to drop a summons she was issued after she ended up in cuffs. Keith was photographing a protest that turned violent near the Broadway-Lafayette station where Neely had been choked to death.
Several demonstrators clashed with cops over the course of the night, during which the incident unfolded.
Keith states that NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell ordered her arrest after she had stepped into the roadway. A throng of officers, she said, restrained her and took her away.
Wylie Stecklow, Keith’s attorney, said that the NYPD had violated the First Amendment rights of his client and that its officers need to be schooled on how to work with journalists.
“I am angry that with decades of history of the NYPD at the highest levels, violating the First Amendment rights of journalists, the NYPD still refuses to re-examine its training of these executive officers and their working knowledge of the First Amendment rights of journalists,” Stecklow said.
During a press conference on the night of the arrest Chief Chell told amNewYork Metro that he made the order because Keith got in the way while officers were making arrests.
“The reporter interfered in at least two arrests in the middle of the street where it got very physical. She interfered a third time and was placed under arrest,” Chell claimed.
Attorney Stecklow criticized Chell’s explanation, even going so far as to suggest the CCRB investigate the Chief of Patrol himself. He also said that the charges do not match with Chell’s account.
“She was not charged with penal law 19505, which in police terms would be interfering with that arrest. She was simply charged with disorderly conduct or refusal to obey an order to disperse,” Stecklow said.
Keith also spoke about the incident. She said that it is common practice for photojournalists to take photos of people getting arrested, even when officers have formed a perimeter.
She said that she was taken away by two officers. “One grabbed each arm and put my arms behind my back. And then I suddenly realized ‘oh my god, I think I’m getting arrested.’ So I said to them, ‘I’m press, I’m press. I’m a journalist. And they said no, you’re not, you’re arrested,’” Keith recalled.
Bruce Cotler, president of the New York City Press Photographers Association, called the arrest a “travesty.”
amNewYork Metro has reached out to the NYPD for comment and is awaiting a response.