By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
On Jan. 18, hundreds of activists gathered in front of the Fullerton Police Department to decry the acquittals of officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli in the beating death of Kelly Thomas. After peacefully protesting on the sidewalks for hours, around 3:30 p.m., a couple of them were arrested for vandalism. Shortly after, an armored SWAT vehicle swooped in and announced the fun was over.
"I am Corporal [Brandon] Clyde of the Fullerton Police Department," blared a commander over a loudspeaker. "I am declaring this an unlawful assembly and order you to leave the police department and City Hall area immediately. If you do not leave, you will be arrested for failure to disperse and/or less-lethal [weapons] will be used."
Dozens of cops suddenly divided into four teams to handle the protesters. Outfitted in riot gear and equipped with gas masks, flex handcuffs and canisters of pepper spray, they stood ready for chaos. But by then, the crowd had thinned out to about 75 people. They booed Clyde's order and began marching away from the scene and toward the Fullerton Bus Depot, the site of a memorial for Thomas.
After a short evening commemoration, some activists tried to go back to the police station, only to be met by cops blocking their path. Live-streaming all of this was citizen journalist PM Beers. As she interviewed an activist at what's called Kelly's Corner who was describing how police had just plucked his friend off the street and arrested him, a patrol car suddenly rolled up. Beers hurried through cars to catch the arrest of her friend Juan Zuletariveros on camera for failure to disperse. Her cell phone quickly panned to another officer, who told her a sergeant watching city cameras back at headquarters instructed him to arrest a woman wearing a black hat embroidered with the word "Press"—just like hers. After trying to get away, Beers captured her own arrest for also failing to disperse as the feed scrambled and dropped around 5:50 p.m. Led away in cuffs, she called for onlookers to tweet what had happened.
By the end of the night, Fullerton police had arrested a total of 14 people, 10 of them for refusing to disperse—some of them hours after and blocks away from where authorities declared unlawful assemblies. Police took Beers and others back to the city jail. Before being transported to county jail, Beers alleges a Fullerton officer said, "There's 12 cops waiting to smash your fucking faces in," calming down only after Beers countered that she'd report any abuse hurled the way of the detainees.
On April 29, members of the so-called Fullerton 14 had a pretrial hearing at Fullerton's North Justice Center to face misdemeanor charges of refusal to disperse. Although prosecutors plan to try all of them, Beers remains the most fascinating plaintiff, as her case shows the obsession Fullerton police have over someone recording their every move.
Based in Los Angeles, she got her start documenting protests in January 2012, fascinated by the easy technology of streaming video that gained popularity during Occupy Wall Street's heyday. Beers' Ustream channel boasts 1,233 subscribers, and her Twitter account tallies 1,437 followers; she archives all of her footage onto a YouTube channel as well. Her coverage has challenged police spin about protesters before: Shortly after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin, activists moved on Hollywood's W Hotel. Later, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson confirmed a news report that major property destruction occurred. Beers' on-the-ground streaming showed nothing like that had happened.
A Fullerton police officer cared little for any of that in a confidential report obtained by the Weekly that was written nearly a month after her arrest at the post-acquittal protest. It focused on discrediting Beers' claims as a citizen journalist and casting her as a ringleader of a migrating mob of protesters violating dispersal orders.
"Patricia Beers is a self proclaimed 'citizen reporter' and does not affiliate herself with mainstream media," officer Anthony Diaz wrote in the report. "In fact, Patricia maintains a 'very biased' viewpoint as stated on her USTREAM web page. Patricia participated in the unlawful assembly and said so defiantly: 'There's been a dispersal order, but we're still here.'"
The quote, while accurate, wasn't her personal opinion, but rather that of a reporter describing a scene to an audience. "My job as a member of the press is to document what's going on," she says. "I feel like I have a responsibility when police are outside of their cars to film them. If I had left, the situation would not have been as safe."
Police used Beers' archived Ustream footage, including time-stamped quotes, in making their criminal case against her and others. "Patricia continued to record the unlawful assembly of protesters who just moments earlier were declared an unlawful assembly and told to 'move away from uniformed officers,'" Diaz continued. "The movement of protesters, including Patricia, toward the same uniformed police officers was a deliberate and defiant act, done in disobedience."
Beers scoffs at how the police reports frame her. In footage that others shot, Beers can be seen off to the side, capturing video in real time with a cell phone, not in front of activists with a bullhorn. "I find that hilariously funny because anybody who knows me wouldn't believe that to be true," she says. "I am not a person who leads people in marches. I'm very outspoken, but I don't motivate huge groups of people to move in one direction or another."
Asked for comment over the telephone, Fullerton police Sergeant Jeff Stuart demanded questions be sent via email given the Weekly's "incredible slant."
According to Cal State Fullerton criminology professor Jarret Lovell, Beers' case is an interesting study in whether citizen journalists can claim in court the same rights as mainstream journalists while covering protests.
"The question about whether citizen journalists have the same protections as professional journalists is an issue that's eventually going to have to be heard in the highest court," Lovell says. "Is reporting a form of speech or a form of action? If we consider reporting a form of speech, then participating in an action that you're reporting [on] would be protected."
In addition to being arrested in the past for unlawful assembly himself, Lovell authored a chapter on citizen journalism and police in Law Enforcement Ethics: Classic and Contemporary Issues. In it, he cites a First Circuit Court ruling in the case of Simon Glick, a lawyer who filmed a police encounter only to be arrested for wiretapping. The ruling held the rights of the press are "continuous with the rights of individuals, and police attempts to create a distinction between the two are invalid."
Whether authorities or prosecutors consider Beers a protester or press, she'll continue on, regardless of the consequences. "Live-stream documentation is the worst nightmare for police because they can't destroy that evidence," Beers says. Law enforcement, in this case, can attempt to use archived footage against activists and citizen journalists alike, but not without a challenge.
"I know that I'm not guilty," she concludes. "Whatever happens, I'm not backing down."
Are you guys editing out comments now that you don't like? I already posted a comment to this article earlier today but it is no longer there. Will try again.
Let's see if I have this incident clear in my mind. Protestors did their thing in front of City Hall for three hours with no Police inteference? Then a couple of them participated in some act of vandalism breaking the law. The Police moved in and declared an "Unlawful Assembly" instructing the group to disband. Most of the protestors did just that and moved to a second site where they continued to protest with no Police inteference. Meanwhile, back at City Hall, a few protestors refused to leave including the pseudo-reporter PM Beers. Even if she had been a legitimate member of the press, there are no exceptions to a dispersal order. She and her group were then arrested. Looks to me that the Police did their job. Beers can tell her B/S excuse of needing to film the Police for the safety of those being arrested to the Judge. Don't think it will get her very far? The moral of this story is, if you don't want the Cops to break up your protest, the organizers need to police the group themselves, assuring that trouble makers do not break the law. Seems like a pretty simple concept to me.
Off duty motor cop killed this morning in traffic accident, thrown into oncoming lane of freeway traffic. Wonder if family will have to reimburse motorist for damages to vehicle?
Peaceful protest is good, but you still have to flip a garbage can and get a little wild. The police are bored and you are bored...and people care more when they hear about some raucous happenings.
Well what would you have us do? Fake the real data that tells the truth and lie to the courts that are corrupt anyway? After all lawyers are paid liars and the the judges in black robes are nothing more that lawyers that are appointed to the bench by someone else. _
I read something recently where it said that 65 percent of the judges in OC are a**holes. 80 percent of all cops are criminals and violate the laws while ON DUTY. And they were SWORN IN to uphold those laws but there are 40,000 new laws that were put into effect on January 1st 2013. So many new laws that the cops can't even follow or enforce them.
The courts ARE Corrupt.
No, this is bogus. I feel no pity for her. Read, study, live, learn, and quit swallowing crap media.
She was press. Filming cops is a form of journalism and vital to the public interest. She should never have been charged. The thug cop who said they were going to beat those arrested should most definitely be charged. Where's our kinder, gentler Captain Hughes?
'yet again'? How? This happened 4 months ago, and it is what it is. She violated an order to disperse. Now, they are taking appropriate legal action, using the plethora of documentation that she herself supplied. Would be nice if the OC Weekly's reporters could separate their own opinions from the articles they try to pass off as news, when in reality, it's a rag full of ads for illicit goods and services, and op-ed crap.
At that time 85% of the cities budget went to public safety. The State of California is totally and completely controlled by the Public Labor Unions Government, Police Fire, and the terribly destructive Public Teachers Unions.
Recalled Fullerton City Councilman, Ex Police Chief Pat McPension hired all of them,"...probably."
When I got to the part that mentioned she films via her cell phone, I said to myself "She films in portrait mode, guarantee it." Of course, that led me to investigate further, in order to see if my assumption was correct. I'm not sure what I'm more disappointed in: finding out that I was right about the portrait mode videos, or that she's a Bundy Ranch wacko.
Also, this: "I don't do writing and reading. I struggle with that. I do videos. And people are judging me by my ability to read and write and that is just not cool."
I, for one, HATE activists that can read and write. They tend to sully up their rhetoric with stupid shit like facts and data. PM Beers is the hero we deserve.
@ltpar"Even if she had been a legitimate member of the press, there are no exceptions to a dispersal order."
That's not true. In her footage, I could identify professional journalists still present in the street and on the sidewalk during one of the unlawful assembly declarations.
It should also be noted that livestreamer "Anaheim" James of inLeague Press is also charged, though he was never arrested at the scene. AJ made it home before being snatched until a lil' something arrived in the mail...
Having the protestors "police" themselves can be a tall order, though. And sometimes people show up at protests to purposely cause trouble so the cops will declare "unlawful assembly" and issue and order to disperse. However, in any case, why should the people protesting peacefully and obeying the law have to suffer for the actions of a few idiots? If the individuals who are actually causing problems have been dealt with why do all the other protestors still have to leave?
Well what would you have us do? Fake the real data that tells the truth and lie to the courts that are corrupt anyway? After all lawyers are paid liars and the the judges in black robes are nothing more that lawyers that are appointed to the bench by someone else.
@PepperSprayBoogie Arent you guys tired of being mortally and brutally beaten by the Press, of ANY kind?
@PepperSprayBoogie The critical questions here are: 1) Should a livestreamer be afforded the same protections as credentialed press to document what happens at a protest when an unlawful assembly is declared--a time when arrests of demonstrators can, and often do take place 2) Are the police reports fair in their portrayal of Beers and other activists in making the criminal case against them?
Dice it up outside of those questions all you want, but do come back to them. They are important for this social media age we've entered.
@fishwithoutbicycle @ltpar The individual trouble makers cast a bad reflection on all protestors and the Police then decide to end the event by dispersing the entire crowd. Doesn't sound fair to many, but it is more effective than to risk Officers venturing into a hostile crowd to try and arrest a select number of people. This is why, protest group organizers should have security monitors within the crowd to stop trouble makers from causing problems. This process has been used successfully many times and the Police will cooperate with the group organizing the event.
Well, That includes the cops that are criminals!
@tongue_twister_for_t I feel like we're getting away from the real issue, which is that people still film stuff in portrait mode.
@gabrielsanroman 1) I don't honestly think there's one answer to this question. I think it depends on the individual, and the integrity of the content and reportage they provide. Call me old fashioned, but I think it would be nice if a citizen journalist, who is asking to have the same protections as the credentialed press, would make an attempt(even just a tiny effort) to be unbiased, diligent and provide verified information and facts. PM Beers' stuff actually covers some of those bases, but she's unabashedly biased, and seems to think that's the norm. Here own Ustream page mentions her belief that no journalist is ever unbiased. I disagree, and that basic failure to understand the role of a journalist's job in society, whether it's Joe Schmoe or some 25 year old with a shiny J-school degree, makes it hard for me to easily afford her that constitutional comfort blanky. In the past couple years, I've followed the protests against both the Anaheim and Fullerton PD by checking on twitter feeds and Ustream feeds of a few amateur reporters, of whom I learned about via OC Weekly or Gustavo's twitter feed. They were just as passionate about their activist roots and stance against the insanely militarized local police, and the accompanying civil rights tragedies, but they were also removed from the picture and those beliefs enough that it proves there is a way to straddle that line. It's called being a journalist. If you feel passionately about your views, enough so that you're only interested in promoting those points of views from the street level while keeping one arm locked with fellow protesters, and the other arm holding your cell phone, you're a protester. Not a reporter.
Also: she films strictly in portrait mode. I feel not only should she not get the protections of the credentialed press, but she should also be exiled from this country, or preferably the planet, if possible.
2) The police reports sound like they are sprinkled with bullshit, per usual. I hate cops.
@fishwithoutbicycle @ltpar Trust and respect is never a granted thing, for either side citizens or police. It must be earned over a period of time. I am proud to say we did that in Irvine stating in 1975 and it is still going strong today.
Yes, Fullerton has some work to do and with the proper leadership they will hopefully restablish the citizen - police partnership.
But I'm sure you can understand why some folks don't trust the police to conduct themselves appropriately...regardless of the circumstances. I don't believe all police officers are bad but I'm certainly skeptical of law enforcement these days.
@fishwithoutbicycle @ltpar No complications in the minds of the Officers as they are trained and focused on maintaining order and allowing a peaceful protest. That is their job even if they don't agree with the topic of the protest. Complicatons of the mind come from protestors who want to lump all Police Officers into the catagory of the few they are protesting about. Often times the protestors vent those frustrations by doing unlawful acts, which in turn results in conflict between the two.
@FSerpico @ltpar @fishwithoutbicycle They get paid for keeping the peace, not starting a brawl with a bunch of agitators looking for that kind of publicity exposure. The tactics and means of handling the incident are left to the on scene supervisors. In most cases, declaring an unlawful assembly is the best tactic.
But if the purpose of the protest is to decry police brutality it complicates the matter greatly...especially if the police department watching over the proceedings formerly employed the officers who participated in beating an unarmed homeless man to death...
I have to agree with you. I've seen Ms Beers on occasion. I've witnessed her attempts to provoke things to give her something juicy to film.
I'm curious, as of late, I'm no longer hearing about her running toward FPD, screaming MOTHERRRFUCKKKERRRSSS at the top of the her lungs a minute or two prior to her arrest. She proudly put this on youtube.
While speaking at Fullerton's city council meeting after her arrest, she went on and on...and on and on how she she's a reeeeal journalist reporting reeeeal news unlike biased mainstream media. She also had her camera filming as she unsuccessfully tried to irritate an FPD cop into saying he wanted to arrest someone who had previously spoken.
I'm an activist but I avoid Beers like the plague, as do more than you'd think. She might get lucky now and then but she has no reeeeal credibility imho.