FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: GULF COAST ADVOCATES AND CITIZEN JOURNALISTS ARRESTED AFTER BIG OIL PROTEST
Four Gulf Coast Advocates, including a New Orleans livestreamer (who livestreams under the twitter handle @small_affair) were arrested on November 15 for attending a protest in solidarity with the Tar Sands Blockade and victims of the BP Oil Spill.
Tara, the livestreamer/citizen journalist who has been filming protests for one year, was arrested despite the fact that she was not protesting and was filming the rally and displaying a press pass. She was first inspired to begin livestreaming after the police brutality the Eris arrestees suffered at the hands of NOPD during Mardi Gras, 2011. She has livestreamed local protests, assemblies, teach-ins, and performances organized by groups including Occupy The Stage, NOLA Socialist Alternative, Occupy NOLA, Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster, Social Justice Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, C3/Hands Off Iberville, Veterans for Peace, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Community United for Change, The First People’s Convention, Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, The Committee to Save Southeast Louisiana Hospital. She has also traveled to such places as Occupy DC, The Occupy National Gathering, Occupy Charlotte, and Occupy New Haven and has livestreamed protests directed at Big Oil, Crooked Politicians, Banks, The Military Industrial Complex, and more.
She helped organize the First People’s Convention in New Orleans.
Tara does not typically use her real name when livestreaming unless her footage is requested to substantiate a claim of police brutality or false arrest, and she has made no attempt to profit off of the citizen journalism she provides. The second arrest she ever filmed was her own. The undercover Louisiana
State Police Officer
(he appeared to be a hotel doorman)
who orchestrated the arrests refused to answer her inquiries when she asked if he was a hotel manager, nor when she asked him to direct her toa hotel employee designated to deal with the press.
Arrested on November 15:
On Thursday, November 15 around 11 am, a group of about ten activists met in in front of the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. They received cold glares from the “doorman” who would not identify himself to the livestreamer when she asked him if he was hotel security. After holding banners and chanting outside the Roosevelt Hotel, the group marched to 1 Shell Square and The Federal Building, passing BP headquarters. The activists then returned to the Roosevelt Hotel while the Joint Energy Industry Association Luncheon was taking place. None of the four arrestees were aware that any instructions not to enter the hotel had been issued by NOPD, the “doorman,” hotel security, or The Louisiana State Police.
The group walked nonchalantly in through the back entrance and passed hotel staff who did not try to stop them and did not ask them for identification. They were given no indication that they were not allowed in the hotel and continued straight up the escalator into the Crescent City Ballroom where a few hundred people were eating lunch. Activists stood in the back of the ballroom and held up signs protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline for about five minutes. One of them was given cheesecake from a guest at the luncheon.
The “doorman” entered the room with hotel security. A member of hotel security asked the activists to leave.
The activists began chanting loudly “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The Tarsand Pipeline’s got to go” while they exited the ballroom. They descended the escalator and some were manhandled by the “doorman.” It was difficult to all descend the narrow escalator at once while the hotel security and “doorman” were shoving some of the activists, but they did begin leaving the hotel when told to. The livestreamer repeatedly displayed her press pass and asked if the press were allowed. Finally the “doorman” told her the press were not allowed in the Roosevelt Hotel. She filmed the “doorman” directing someone to call 9-11 to report “criminal trespassing.”
Since they had been told to leave, the activists exited the building and congregated on the sidewalk, beginning to disperse. On the sidewalk, where they were no longer “trespassing,” the livestreamer noticed the other citizen journalist who was also displaying a press pass being stopped by a plainclothes Louisiana State Police Officer. The livestreamer asked if the citizen journalist was being detained. No response was given. The plainclothes State Police Officer yelled “Stop” but did not clarify to whom he was issuing the order. The livestreamer asked if they were being detained, but did not get a response.
Two of the remaining activists crossed the street. The livestreamer began to follow them after waiting for traffic. As the livestreamer and two activists crossed the street to the car, the “doorman” yelled, “That guy is a State police officer and he told you to stop.”
“You’re a hotel employee,” one of the two activists with the livestreamer yelled. “You’re out of your jurisdiction.”
At that point, none of the three had been told they were being detained so decided to leave The Roosevelt as they had been instructed. The three got in the livestreamer’s car.
As the livestreamer attempted to drive away, the “doorman” ran in front of the car and displayed a Louisiana State Police badge and shouted that he was an officer and if the livestreamer hit him with her car, it would be a felony. The livestreamer immediately stopped the car and turned it off. A police car pulled up and the livestreamer and two activists were told to get out of the car. They complied willingly and stood on the sidewalk asking if they were being detained several times. Finally the plainclothes police officer said they were being detained.
Several NOPD officers arrived and told the livestreamer, citizen journalist, and activist to stay on the sidewalk. They then spoke with the “doorman” and one activist noted that the NOPD were not eager to arrest the group since they were not trespassing anymore and had obviously left the building when they were told to. The “doorman” insisted the four renaming people be arrested for Criminal Trespassing. The authorities asked the two activists without press passes who had organized the action, and they honestly responded that they didnot know.
A friend arrived at the scene and was allowed to take down the names and birthdays of the arrestees and secure some of their valuables.
The four arrestees were booked extremely quickly when taken to Orleans Parish Prison. The livestreamer was asked to approach the Sheriff to spell the name of one of the arrestees correctly. The livestreamer overheard the Sheriff telling the Orleans Parish Prison Employee who takes the mug shots that the four arrestees needed to be photographed quickly because there was a request to send their photographs to the FBI. When she asked the Sheriff to confirm this, he said their photographs were being sent to the FBI. He said he was not joking.
Bond was set at $165 per person. Members of Occupy The Stage and a mutual friend posted bond for all four arrestees. Some of the bond was the livestreamer’s rent money which she had left in a safe location.
On November 16, the charges were dropped against all four activists when they agreed to forfeit bond.
Any donations to cover Tara’s bond costs will be greatly appreciated. Any additional donations will be given to the other arrestees to pay back Justin.
Donations to repay members of Occupy The Stage (other than @small_affair) who helped post bond for the other 3 arrestees can be made here: Occupy The Stage donations Jail Support Donations
Any solidarity actions or efforts to raise awareness of this clear violation of The First Amendment are welcome.
An injustice was committed by the Big Oil Executives and the Undercover Louisiana State Police Officer