My arrest while covering Occupy Oakland has taught me a great deal about the dehumanizing power of law enforcement and the presumption of guilt in detention of political protesters, about the power of bureaucracy versus the power of the human spirit.
I didn’t also expect a lesson in media literacy, sinking standards and the flow of information.
Following my arrest on November 3 at Occupy Oakland, where I have been reporting for several outlets since October 10, I have worked very hard to get my charges dropped. This has been a long and complicated process. Ultimately the only thing that got the Oakland Police Department’s attention as a formal letter from the Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information committee. A week or so after they sent it, I received a call from the OPD Public Information Officer telling me that she had spoken with the investigator, who would not be pursuing my misdemeanor.
I have yet to receive anything in writing, nor have I received verbal confirmation of my dropped charges from either the Oakland Police Department leadership or the Alameda County District Attorney. I’m still in this gray area waiting stage where I don’t really know what’s happening. Things could certainly be worse and even more vague for me. I remain confident that because the PIO has taken it upon herself to lobby on my behalf, I am likely to eventually be “P2-ed” with my charges dropped — but my arrest record remaining.
Still, because of the lack of clarity, I chose to keep the story mostly quiet, but for one email to Mediabistro’s Fishbowl LA — an email which was selectively quoted, and then became the basis for several more posts in the comics and media press from authors who could not be bothered to email me and ask, Hey Susie, what’s up?
Occupy is a difficult story to cover, in large part because of its decentralized nature. There are very rarely clear answers and clear people to try to get them from. There have been many times I needed comment from someone who wasn’t willing to give me their full name let alone contact information, many times where I wished all I could do was email someone and ask, Hey, what’s up? It’s unfortunate to see that standards in web journalism have sunk so low that no one could bother to do that for me.
So for next time (though I surely hope there won’t be a next time): it’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Susie Cagle
Read Susie’s blog here: http://www.thisiswhatconcernsme.com And read Susie’s illustrated report here: http://www.good.is/post/an-illustrated-history-of-occupy-oakland/