Be sure you're sitting down before reading further, or at least standing next to your favorite fainting couch: The NYPD may not be telling the truth regarding its rough arrest of a NY Times photographer on Saturday night. You'll recall that photographer Robert Stolarik was in the Bronx with two reporters conducting street interviews when a street fight erupted in the Concourse neighborhood. According to the Times, the NYPD claims:
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.
Stolarik was arrested, held in jail overnight, and charged with obstructing government administration and with resisting arrest. He insists the charges are bogus, and, in an interview with Daily Intel, claims that NYPD officers first tried to stop him from taking photos, then assaulted him:
According to Stolarik, he was first approached by a female officer, who put her hand on his camera and told him to stop shooting. After he pointed out his media credentials and continued, Stolarik said, a second officer approached and "handled the camera more aggressively, pushed it into me." When he asked for the officers' names and badge numbers, he was "surrounded and taken down — dragged, kicked, and stomped on."
"My camera hitting anybody is an untruth," Stolarik told Intel. "They just get to say whatever they feel like saying and then charging me with whatever they feel like charging me with to justify their actions. They were violent toward me, and they were violent toward the media. I always try to be reasonable. But there's going to be a next generation [of journalists] to come up, and if we accept this type of behavior, what happens to that next group of people?"
Stolarik has not gotten his camera and equipment back from the NYPD, and he says he's out roughly $20,000 in materials and additional lost income from being unable to work. Currently, he has no plans to sue—he just wants the charges dropped and his property back, but as it stands now, he will not be able to obtain his equipment until his November court date. In an interview with Politicker, Stolarik says the NYPD allegation that he was violently resisting arrest, “the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard in my life." He elaborates further on the incident:
When I went to go shoot it, a cop grabbed my lens and shoved it down. I said, "Don’t touch my lens." Another cop came to her rescue, if that’s what we want to call it. He grabbed the camera, pushed it into my face. They both told me to "get the fuck out of there" and I continued to shoot and asked for their badge numbers. When I asked for their badge numbers, they turned violent, they surrounded me, they knocked me to the ground, dragged me while I was on the ground. There were like six or more….One of which was kicking me in the back. They were not cuffing me and taking a real long time stepping on my head.
To be fair, a good head stomp takes time—it doesn't just happen. And in addition to his lack of equipment, Stolarik's press credentials have also been confiscated, making it even more difficult for him to work. “The police department has used this as their personal way to kind of take away my livelihood," Stolarik concludes.