UC Berkeley has agreed to pay $162,500 dollars to a local photographer who claims he was illegally arrested back in 2009 while photographing a protest on the UC Berkeley campus.
David Morse was present as a crowd of protestors threw lit torches and broke windows of UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s campus residence while the Chancellor and his wife Catherine were inside.
A majority of those causing the destruction fled when police arrived but Morse remained, presumably to continue photographing the scene.
Police ignored Morse’s press pass and arrested him along with eight other people on the night of Dec. 11, 2009. Although Morse was never charged with a crime, police obtained a search warrant to remove photographs from his camera and used them in handouts in an attempt to identify the vandals.
An Alameda County Superior Court judge granted Morse’s motion to void the warrant and have his photos returned. UC police did not compensate Morse for the infringement of his rights at the time.
After a $162,500 settlement was reached, Morse’s attorney Terry Gross told the Chron:
“From now on, it’s going to be clear to all of them that they can no longer engage in this type of activity where they target a journalist or anyone else who is taking pictures.”
Incidents of police officers infringing on freedom of the press seems to have become more common over the past several years. Jane Tyska of the Oakland Tribune was awarded $99,000 after being illegally detained by Oakland Schools Police Chief Art Michel in 2008. Tyska filmed the incident, which is available on YouTube.
San Francisco Chronicle reporter Vivian Ho was detained in 2011 while covering a No Justice No BART protest in downtown San Francisco. Ho was detained again in January of this year along with five other credentialed journalists while covering an Occupy Oakland event. One was taken to Santa Rita Jail.
More recently, local photographer John Weston Osburn filed a federal rights against the city of Oakland last week claiming officers injured his wrist and wrongfully arrested him on suspicion of attempted arson as he photographed a protest in downtown Oakland in 2010.