Freelance photojournalist Mannie Garcia — an Oval Office regular for 19 years who shot the Obama portrait appropriated in Shepard Fairey’s Hope posters — is considering filing a civil rights lawsuit against the police in Maryland. When documenting a suspicious arrest, he was brutally assaulted by armed bullies in uniform, but that was just the beginning of his Kafkaesque nightmare.
It all started in a Washington suburb last June, when the 58-year-old photojournalist was leaving a restaurant and noticed the police arresting two Hispanic men on an unlit part of the street with their siren lights off. He began documenting the public scene with photos and video:
“I was across the street and about half a block up the street, toward the street light. When an officer came up to me, I let the camera go, I opened up my hands, and I said, ‘I’m Mannie Garcia, and I’m with the press.’ Then two things happened at about the same time: he grabbed me by the neck and says, ‘That’s it, you’re under arrest’; and he pulled my arm behind me, put me in a choke hold, and started dragging me across the street.”
When his wife saw what was happening, one of the officers shouted:
“If that fucking bitch takes one more step I’m going to arrest her ass.”
Classy. So was proceeding to slam Garcia’s head onto the squad car, kicking out his feet from under him and removing the memory chip from his camera. He was arrested for disorderly conduct, the officer later explained himself with an incredible tale of how Garcia — a well-respected White House photographer — “threw himself to the ground, attempting to injure himself.”
Though Garcia was tried and found not guilty, his White House press credentials were mysteriously not renewed when the time came, due to a pending criminal charge. So much for innocent until proven guilty. So much for innocent after being proven not guilty.
An intense rigamorale later, Garcia’s got his cred back, but the unjust delay cost him dearly. We hope he does in fact sue. As police officers continue to break the law, trample the First Amendment and manhandle, threaten, harass and beat professional photographers, citizen journalists and unarmed protestors, our wish is fully justified.