It’s like “déjà vu all over again”: New York Times freelance photographer Robert Stolarik was arrested this past Saturday while on assignment in the Bronx. As he was taking photographs of a developing street fight, Stolarik was confronted by officers, ordered to stop, and then allegedly assaulted.
The New York Times writes,
Mr. Stolarik was taking photographs of the arrest of a teenage girl about 10:30 p.m., when a police officer instructed him to stop doing so. Mr. Stolarik said he identified himself as a journalist for The Times and continued taking pictures. A second officer appeared, grabbed his camera and “slammed” it into his face, he said.
Mr. Stolarik said he asked for the officers’ badge numbers, and the officers then took his cameras and dragged him to the ground; he said that he was kicked in the back and that he received scrapes and bruises to his arms, legs and face.
The police department has a different account of what happened (Rashoman, anyone?):
The Police Department said in a statement that officers had been trying to disperse the crowd and had given “numerous lawful orders” for both the crowd and Mr. Stolarik to move back, but that he tried to push forward, “inadvertently” striking an officer in the face with his camera.
The police said that Mr. Stolarik then “violently resisted being handcuffed” and that, in the process, a second officer was cut on the hand. A video of the episode taken by one of the reporters who was with Mr. Stolarik shows Mr. Stolarik face down on the sidewalk, beneath a huddle of about six officers.
During the encounter, Stolarik had his press credentials and camera equipment confiscated. Today the National Press Photographers Association sent this letter to the police department demanding an investigation and the immediate return of the credentials and gear:
Back to why it’s “déjà vu all over again”: it was just last year that Stolarik made headlines after getting into a confrontation with the NYPD during an assignment (photo at top of this post shows Stolarik in this incident). That time he was covering the Occupy Wall Street protests. The two stories are strikingly similar.