Flashpoints on KPFA Radio 94.1 is an award-winning daily investigative newsmagazine broadcast on the national Pacifica Radio network.
On March 29th, Dennis Bernstein speaks with Indybay reporter Bradley Stuart Allen, who has a jury trial on May 21st for felony conspiracy, vandalism and trespassing charges over his coverage of the Occupy movement, as well as Ben Rice, who is representing Bradley.
Flashpoints, for March 29, 2012
Dennis Bernstein Interviews Bradley Stuart Allen and Ben Rice on KPFA’s Flashpoints
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: And you’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Let me read you a little bit of some independent reporting from Indybay.
Santa Cruz District Attorney Bob Lee has embarked on a full frontal assault against independent media in Santa Cruz by including four regular contributors to the independent news website Indybay.org amongst the eleven people charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors after the occupation of a vacant bank building on November 30th, 2011. District Attorney Lee apparently believes it is his duty to dictate how events such as the occupation of the vacant bank at 75 River Street in Santa Cruz should be reported on by the media, and if he does not approve of the coverage, again this is from Indybay, they’re saying that journalists risk the DA bringing charges against them.
Well, Bradley Stuart Allen knows that the authorities in Santa Cruz are willing to bring charges, because he’s facing felony charges for documenting various actions of Occupy Santa Cruz. And indeed Bradley Stuart Allen joins us from Santa Cruz. Also from Santa Cruz joining us is his attorney, Ben Rice.
I thank both of you for being with us on Flashpoints.
BEN RICE: Well thanks for having us. It’s great to be with you.
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Thank you so much for joining us. Let me start with you Bradley Stuart Allen. What were you doing? Were you a photographer? And tells us about the kinds of things you were documenting when you got arrested.
BRADLEY ALLEN: Sure, thanks Dennis. I’ve been a journalist, a photojournalist in Santa Cruz, covering a wide-variety of events for over ten years. On November 30th, 2011, I showed up to an announced demonstration that was being held in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz. It was announced that it was going to be a picket of banks in downtown Santa Cruz.
And so I showed up to that event as a photojournalist to cover it for Indybay.org. At that demonstration, people initially met at the county courthouse, marched to a Chase bank, held a brief rally, and then marched towards a couple banks in downtown Santa Cruz, which has been the site of previous pickets related to the Occupy Santa Cruz movement.
However as a surprise to the majority of people on that march, people got into this empty bank building and began to occupy it. So I was covering this march, and since the march, people from that march went inside the bank building. I covered that as a breaking news event.
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: And then what happened? The police came.
BRADLEY ALLEN: The police responded, and I took pictures of their response to demonstrators. And then I went home. And I published my photos on Indybay.org. And two months later, I’m facing multiple felonies and multiple misdemeanors as a result of my coverage of this announced demonstration.
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: What did your photographs? What are a some of the images that your photographs depicted? Did it, did they depict police violence? Did they depict protestors?
BRADLEY ALLEN: It’s a sequence of the demonstration, so we have pictures of the march, as well as pictures from inside the bank, such as demonstrators are making signs, signs against the windows, even people inside the bank. Things like this.
Just documenting what’s happening, what’s taking place. Including the police. There was one individual who was arrested outside of the bank, and I documented that arrest as well. Asking the police officers for information as to what happened, and why that person was being arrested.
But in regards to the actual occupation of the building, there were no arrests made for that at the time. This occupation lasted for three and a half days, but no arrests were made at the time.
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: OK, you’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Let’s bring your attorney into this Bradley Stuart Allen. Let’s ask Ben Rice a little bit more.
Mr. Rice, you’re representing Bradley Stuart Allen. Say a little bit more about exactly what the charges are. What is Mr. Allen being charged with?
BEN RICE: Sure. They filed felony charges against Bradley, and all these individuals actually, for conspiring to trespass, and then do vandalism that amounted to over the threshold amount to make the vandalism a felony. The bank is claiming some $30,000 worth of damages.
So it’s a somewhat unique legal approach by the DA’s office. It’s something that we see sometimes in homicide cases, and gang cases. But they’re saying that anybody that trespassed should have been pretty much put on notice that it was likely that vandalism would occur.
And that’s of course pretty far-fetched in a case like this. If anybody were to participate in an anti-war rally, or any kind of rally, and some nut, or some, you know, well-meaning person who makes a decision to break a window or whatever, that would mean anybody that was participating in that rally or march could be similarly charged.
So we think this is significantly overcharge, particularly against Bradley, given his longstanding work as a photojournalist. We had a lengthy three day preliminary hearing, and put on a lot of evidence about Bradley. He’s got a master’s degree from UCSC, and had expert witnesses testify and talk about his work. And we did that to show that it’s unlikely that he had the specific intent to further some kind of conspiracy here.
Despite that, the judge held Bradley and the other defendant that is a photojournalist; held them to answer on the felony conspiracy and trespass charges. The judge did not hold these two guys to answer for the vandalism. And that means that if that had held up, then they wouldn’t have to go to trial on that.
Well we went to court today for the arraignment, and the District Attorney’s Office has decided to issue those charges again in the criminal information that was filed today. So we’re going to be filling a motion to knock the entire case out, cause we don’t think there’s any evidence, of any significant degree at least, that shows there was a meeting at the minds by Bradley to engage in some kind of conspiracy.
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Now I understand that, in fact, the situation was photographed or filmed by a local news reporter for the local newspaper in Santa Cruz, and he wasn’t prosecuted.
BEN RICE: That’s correct. And actually there were an awful lot of other people that were identified, not prosecuted, including one of our City Council Members. So it certainly appears to be a decision by the District Attorney, to go after individuals that are not on their A-List, shall we say.
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Alright, let me bring you, we don’t have a lot of time left, but let me bring you in Bradley Stuart Allen, and let me give you a chance to respond. Do you believe that this is an attempt at intimidating journalists, particularly progressive journalists, from being in there, and keeping an eye on a situation, in the context of Occupy, where we have seen many, many brutalities, and very troubling actions, overreactions by the police?
BRADLEY ALLEN: I definitely think it’s a clear attack on myself, personally, and independent and alternative media specifically. It’s also an attack on all journalists, and all people that depend on information to make informed decisions in their life.
But very specifically, it’s an attack on the Santa Cruz Independent Media Center, which is part of Indybay.org, and yes, alternative journalism. Because they are working hard to control who gets to be deemed a journalist, what stories are appropriate to cover, and how those stories are able to be covered.
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Would you say that you will have to hesitate now? Facing these kind of felony charges. Or, what happens? Do you go forward, another action happens, do you bring out your camera? What goes on? Have you been slowed, if you will?
BRADLEY ALLEN: I have been slowed down, just because of the practicality of going to court and having to defend myself, and deal with all these charges. So without a doubt, this has been a tremendous impact on my life.
But, at the same time, absolutely, I have been out in the streets with my camera. I will be back in the streets with my camera. I think that’s critical. There was a demonstration at the Wells Fargo bank across from the empty Wells Fargo bank, and that was maybe a week after these charges were first issued. And myself, and my co-defendant, Alex, who’s a photographer with Santa Cruz Indymedia, we were absolutely both out there, taking photographs of the demonstration.
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Alright, well I want to look at the website. I’m gonna see the work you’ve been doing. I know you’ve been involved in this kind of work for some time. I want to thank you very much, Bradley Stuart Allen, and also Ben Rice, your attorney for bringing us up to speed on this story.
Important story for journalists, I agree with you, all over the country, because we’ve seen a lot of different variations on this theme, really meant to chill-out and sometimes literally, physically beat-down, independent reporting on these crucial issues. So again, please keep us posted. We’re going to watch how this unfolds.
BRADLEY ALLEN: Alright, thanks.
BEN RICE: Thanks for having us.
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: You’re very welcome. You’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio.
Flashpoints is an award-winning daily investigative newsmagazine broadcast on the national Pacifica Radio network. Through original reports and some of the key investigative reporters of our time, Flashpoints goes to the frontlines and to the core of the stories in the areas of government and corporate criminality, human rights, and economic justice. From Baghdad to the US-Mexico border, Palestine to San Francisco, Port-au-Prince to Washington DC, Flashpoints monitors the centers of power as an uncensored platform of independent media.