Oakland Tribune photographer Jane Tyska was just doing her job when an Oakland Police Officer named Art Michel alledgedly hit Tyska as she was filming. It's too bad Jane didn't get a shot of the car as it went by -- I'd have done that right off.
But it's clear the Oakland Police are developing a kind of track record of hostility to the press. First there's the matter of Chauncey Bailey, then there's this issue of the way Jane was treated and detained.
Police should consider journalists as off-limits to their treatment. To treat someone the way Michel handled Jane, who I know, is not only terrible, it should be grounds for dismissal. I view it as interfering with a journalist's job, just as a police officer has the right to charge a person who keeps them from doing their job.
It's obvious Officer Michel was being unnecessarily harsh with Tyska. He should be forced to at the very least apologize to Jane. Michel was out of line.
Here's what the Trib wrote:
The Oakland Police Department on Monday returned a videotape confiscated last week from an Oakland Tribune staffer by Oakland school district police during an immigration rights protest at the Fruitvale BART station.
The Alameda County District Attorney's office has not decided yet if any charges will be brought against Tribune videographer Jane Tyska, who was detained during the protest on Friday. But that office authorized the return of the videotape Monday.
Tyska had the video camera running as she was detained by Art Michel, Oakland Unified School District police chief. On tape, he accuses Tyska of hitting his car, orders her into the patrol car's back seat and at one point accusesWarning: Video contains profanity
her of inciting a riot.
"I didn't hit your car," Tyska says on the tape. "I'm working press."
Michel responds "No, you're a pain in the a-- and you hit my car. Get in the car or I'm going to stuff you in the car."
Michel adds "You're a lying son of a b----, you hit my car, I saw you. I was looking right at you when you hit it."
The encounter lasts a little over two minutes, before ending when the officer demands the tape.
Tyska said the officer grazed her with his car as she was walking backward, videotaping protesters in the middle of the street. He then stopped his car, began yelling profanities at her and accused her of hitting his car and inciting a riot, Tyska said.
"I immediately identified myself as a photographer for the Oakland Tribune, showed him my press pass and said I was just doing my job, but he continued yelling and screaming profanities and said he was going to arrest me."
In his police report, Michel maintained Tyska hit his car while filming and detained her for vandalism about 10:15 a.m. Friday.
Michel's report states that Tyska was detained for blocking the roadway, inciting a riot and breaking a vehicle.
"Her arm struck my vehicle's right-side view mirror. She yelled something that I could not understand, and the crowd started to yell. I immediately stopped and exited my patrol vehicle to detain Tyska for vandalism and blocking the roadway."
Tyska was placed in back of a patrol car and released without citation.
The protest was part of a larger rally by students who were headed to San Francisco for an immigration rights event.
The school district maintained that Michel was trailing the student-protesters as they made their way down International Boulevard when the incident happened.
"The officer confiscated the tape as alleged evidence of the photographer's interference with his ability to conduct his responsibilities, which in this case was protecting student-protesters," district spokesman Troy Flint said Friday.
The video is available on insidebayarea.com. Viewer discretion is advised because of profanity.
"I have spoken at length with Chief Michel about this incident several times since it happened and he has professed regret that the situation ever occurred," said Pete Wevurski, managing editor of Bay Area News Group-East Bay, which publishes Tribune.
"Even so, we could not ignore what's on the tape because we take freedom of the press very seriously. It conveys the right for journalists to perform their jobs without interference by any government agency.
"With that right comes responsibilities, including an obligation to keep anyone from infringing on that freedom or from being emboldened enough to try. I trust that making this tape available to the public will dissuade others from interfering with the job we do on the public's behalf."