Robert Stolarik was doing his job, covering the arrest of a 16-year-old girl in the Bronx, when the NYPD brutally assaulted and arrested him.
Stolarik is a credentialed photojournalist and is contracted to work for the New York Times. The 43-year-old photographer has been working for the Times for more than a decade, and is a former war correspondent.
Stolarik was arrested on Saturday night for allegedly obstructing government administration and violently resisting arrest.
He says he was taking photos of the NYPD officers, who had responded to a fight in the Councourse neighbourhood of the Bronx, when he was assaulted, handcuffed and dragged off to jail.
The New York Police Department is claiming that when Stolarik was told to leave the scene, he "inadvertantly" struck a police officer with his camera. He was then forced to the ground and arrested. In the process, he says he suffered bruises and scrapes and had his own camera "slammed" into his face.
Stolarik was taken to the 44th Precinct station and was released at 4:40 a.m.
The police report says that Stolarik "violently resisted being handcuffed." However, according to Stolarik, this is not the case. The Times has received video footage of Stolarik's arrest and reports that the photographer was “face down on the sidewalk, beneath a huddle of about six officers” throughout the ordeal.
Stolarik told the Village Voice, "A lot of officers took me down and dragged me; I don't have any internal injuries or broken bones, but it feels like I did."
"I can't even believe they have any justification for what they did. There's no justification. I was treated with more respect in the worst places than I was in this situation. It's unbelievable to fear for your life in your own city,” he added.
Stolarik told the NY Mag, "They just get to say whatever they feel like saying and then charging me with whatever they feel like charging me with to justify their actions. They were violent toward me, and they were violent toward the media."
A spokeswoman for the New York Times told Media Guardian, "In our view, Robert Stolarik, a freelance photographer working on behalf of The New York Times, was doing nothing more than his job when he was roughed up and arrested.”
Stolarik's $9,000 camera, that the police claim was used to assault them, was not immediately returned to him.
Two days later, lawyers for the National Press Photographers Association were still demanding that the New York Police Department return $18,000 worth of gear, taken as evidence by the police, as well as the journalist’s city-sanctioned press credentials.
NPPA lawyer, Mickey Osterreicher wrote to the NYPD, "It is a travesty that officers still do not understand or respect that the public's access to information regarding the official business of the Department is of critical importance to effective City government.”
He said that returning Stolarik’s equipment would be “the right thing” for the NYPD to do.
George Freeman, a lawyer for the New York Times said, "This is an incident where it seemed the photographer was doing his job taking photographs, and the police overreacted and attempted to intimidate him and block him, leading to his arrest.”
According to the Village Voice, an aide for the NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne has told Stolarik's attorney that an investigation into the incident will not start until after the photographer's first court date.
Stolarik is not expected to go before a judge until November, and tells the NY Mag that he does not plan on pressing charges of his own right now. He is only asking for the NYPD to return his gear and rescind their charges against him.
Care2 is running a petition to tell the New York Police Department not to arrest journalists doing their job.