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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cops Try To Scare Me As I Cover A Non-Protest

No protesters at Dirty Blondes
The Dirty Blonde protest didn't come off as planned. I don't know how many people they expected, but I'm the only one here, except for 2 cops who both took my picture and tried to intimidate me.



To make a short story long:


I went down to the protest out of curiosity and because I had successfully pitched an article to PoliticusUSA on the power of social media. I've never seen anything go viral this fast. On July 28th Keeland Dumont posted a 15-second video on Instagram. It showed an alleged beat down of Alexander Coelho and David Parker by bouncers from Dirty Blonde's Sports Bar. Watch:


Video courtesy Carlos Miller, Photography Is Not A Crime



Alexander Coelho showing his alleged
injuries from his alleged beat down
I became aware the video the very next morning from Photography Is Not A Crime (a website I highly recommend), where Carlos Miller has been updating the story ever since. Then it was rapidly picked up by Broward New Times, but it spread quickly after that. By the end of 29th it was everywhere. Then a "Boycott Dirty Blonde's" Facebook page sprang up from nowhere, only to have the inevitable article appear because someone (from Dirty Blonde's maybe?) reported the page as offensive: 'Boycott Dirty Blondes' Facebook Page Temporarily Disabled As Response To Bouncer Beating Video Grows. However, the Facebook page was restored the next day as the legit Dirty Blonde's Facebook wall was first defaced and then deleted, presumably by Dirty Blonde's which was having trouble keeping up deleting comments. After that the local tee vee stations jumped on the bandwagon and broadcasted the video. From there it spread across the nation and then around the world. A friend in Canada sent me a copy, as did another friend overseas.

That made the Fort Lauderdale police sit up and take notice. You see they had taken the bouncers word for it because they actually charged the victims before the video went viral. The public outcry -- and the fact that video shows that Coelho was clearly (allegedly) cold-cocked and then kicked several times -- forced the police to say they were investigating. Today Fort Lauderdale police charged bouncer Arnald Thomas-Darrah with Felony Battery. His alleged partner-in-crime, Jovan Ralfhel Dean, was charged with Misdemeanor Battery.

I am always curious about things that go viral on the innertubes. Why does one thing explode while other equally compelling stories do not? It's not for nothing I want to know. I've been trying to get my campaign to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House to go viral. After several years of trying, I still feel like I'm pissing in the wind. Yet, a 15-second video is dropped on Instagram and it becomes the shot heard round the world by the next day (not that it didn't deserve the attention it received).

It was this curiosity that brought me to the Fort Lauderdale beach today. I stayed until about 3:30 and, when no protestors came out, I turned my curiosity to something else: Two police officers protecting Dirty Blonde's from a protest that wasn't happening. It's hard to know exactly why the police officers were even there, since there was no protest whatsoever. *

I first noticed them when they strode purposefully towards the bar. They were the only thing of interest at the non-protest, so I snapped pictures of their arrival:

This was the first officer to arrive. I'll call him Corpulent Cop.

This officer was the 2nd to arrive so he saw me take a pic of his partner.
He pretended not to see me after I saw him see me. He was the1st officer to take my picture.
 My first thought was to wonder if they were on the city clock or whether they had been hired by Dirty Blonde's to keep the piece. That's the only reason I even took their picture. I thought I might ask the police department a question or two and see if that led anywhere. In the meanwhile, I had their pictures.

Nothing to do; no protest to shoot
A few minutes later, when I was talking with with two television cameramen sent out to cover the nonexistent protest, I noticed the first officer taking pictures of me from inside Dirty Blonde's. I was in the process of wiping my brow with a red handkerchief, so I waved it at him and he waved back. By the time I got my camera out to take his picture he had stopped.

A few minutes after that I noticed Corpulent Cop also taking my picture. I pulled out my camera and managed to take a number of shots of him taking pics of me, like so:

Corpulent Cop taking my picture as I take his.

Taking my picture is clearly an attempt at intimidation. However, what am I to make of his shouted comment as I took his picture, "You are a stupid, stupid man."


The historical marker at A1A & Las Olas
While I didn't care he had taken my picture, having him yell what I interpreted as a threat was intimidating. Remember: I read Photography Is Not A Crime almost every day. Every post Miller writes is about some poor schnook who has been thumped and/or arrested simply because cops felt they could get away with it.

More and more, due to sites like PINAC, dirty cops are not getting away with it, but that doesn't mean I want to be assaulted by a macho cop trying to prove he's as tough as the bouncers he was sent to protect.

From that moment on I made sure I was not blocking the sidewalk. Prior to that exchange I had been casually crossing back and forth from one side of A1A to the other. From that moment on I crossed at the light at Las Olas so that I couldn't be arrested for jaywalking. I wasn't going to give this loudmouth an excuse to harass me, not that he'd really need one. Corpulent Cop could just invent one, like what seems to have happened when police showed up on the evening of July 28th to arrest the victim, Alexander Coelho. The arresting officer claimed that Coelho pushed him. I find it extremely hard to believe that after Coelho had just suffered the beating of his life, he'd be stupid enough to assault a police officer. Yet, he was charged with "battery of a law enforcement officer," despite all the independent witnesses.

Ironically, as I was leaving I ran into a real protest. People were holding signs in favour of Obamacare.



* Apparently the Dirty Blonde's protestors showed up after I left.