The Obama Administration has filed a brief in support of a Maryland photojournalist who says he was arrested and beaten after he took photographs of the police arresting two other men. The brief by the Justice Department argues that the US Constitution protects the right to photograph the actions of police officers in public places and prohibits police officers from arresting journalists for exercising those rights.
The lawsuit arose from a June 2011 altercation in which photojournalist Mannie Garcia witnessed Montgomery County police arresting "two young Hispanic men" in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. Concerned that the police were using "excessive force," Garcia says he pulled out his camera and began photographing the scene from a distance of about 30 feet.
Garcia says that when Officer Christopher Malouf approached him, Garcia identified himself as a member of the press held up his hands to show he was only holding a camera. But Malouf "placed Mr. Garcia in a choke hold and dragged him across the street to his police cruiser," where he "subjected him to verbal and physical abuse." According to Garcia's complaint, Malouf "forcibly dragged Mr. Garcia across the street, throwing him to the ground along the way, inflicting significant injuries." Garcia says Malouf "kicked his right foot out from under him, causing Mr. Garcia to hit his head on the police cruiser while falling to the ground."
Garcia claims that Malouf took the video card from Garcia's camera and put it in his pocket. The card was never returned. Garcia was charged with disorderly conduct. In December 2011, a judge found Garcia not guilty. After the Montgomery County Police Department failed to discipline the officers, Garcia filed a civil rights lawsuit against Montgomery County and the police officers involved in his arrest