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2 journalists sue Oakland police over tickets

Jul 1, 2014

San Francisco Chronicle

2 journalists sue Oakland police over tickets

1st Amendment rights??? Not around the police!!!!

I got a gun and a badge and that means you ain't got no "constitutional rights" - in reality sadly that's how government works

The San Francisco Chronicle/ blog on crime in the Bay Area and beyond.

2 journalists sue Oakland police over tickets

Posted on Monday, June 30 at 6:22pm | By Henry K. Lee

Two independent journalists filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday against the Oakland police, saying they were wrongfully detained and ticketed for minor infractions at protests because of their critical reporting on the department.

In a suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Jacob Crawford and David Morse said the tickets they received were “in retaliation for their attempts to document police actions in connection with political demonstrations against police brutality.”

The city has not responded in court to the suit, which seeks unspecified damages.

On July 19, Crawford said he was given a “groundless” citation for jaywalking on the 500 block of 14th Street after he took photos of and asked for the identities of Oakland police monitoring demonstrators at a downtown rally who were protesting the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

Sgt. Darrin Downum directed Officer Melissa Baddie to write Crawford the citation, said the suit filed by attorney Rachel Lederman. Crawford was handcuffed for several minutes during the encounter, the suit said. The ticket was eventually dismissed in traffic court, the complaint said.

On Jan. 13, Crawford and Morse said they were riding their bicycles home from a demonstration — which never materialized — that had been called to protest the acquittal of Fullerton police officers who killed homeless man Kelly Thomas. Oakland Officers Kristina Tikkanen and Joseph Fong, acting on orders from Officer William Bergeron, gave each of them a citation for “supposedly running a red light” at San Pablo Avenue and Thomas L. Berkley Way, the suit said. Those tickets were also dismissed.

“Neither plaintiff had violated the Vehicle Code or any other law, and there was no probable cause to detain or cite plaintiffs on either of these occasions,” the suit said. “Rather, the citations were given pursuant to an Oakland police policy to selectively ticket demonstrators, journalists and ‘copwatchers’ in order to gather personal information and deter participation in demonstrations and documentation of police misconduct.”

Lederman said, “OPD has a misguided and illegal policy of selectively targeting demonstrators for bike and pedestrian tickets. In my clients’ case, they were targeted as journalists who were documenting the police, in violation of their First Amendment rights. We’re trying to put a stop to this practice.”

Crawford is a videographer “who has produced videos dealing with Oakland police misconduct, and is employed by a law firm that represents plaintiffs in police misconduct litigation,” the suit said.

Morse, a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center, or Indybay, received $162,500 in 2012 to settle a lawsuit he filed alleging that UC Berkeley police wrongfully arrested him and seized photos he took during a raucous protest at the on-campus residence of former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

Earlier this year, a federal magistrate ruled that Morse could go to trial with his suit alleging that BART police targeted him for an arrest in San Francisco because of his critical coverage of the transit agency. That suit is still pending.