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LAPD arrest of reporter during Occupy L.A. raid draws criticism

December 13, 2011 |  3:06 pm

 Los Angeles police Tuesday defended the arrest of a local journalist during the massive operation to dismantle the Occupy L.A. encampment, despite criticism from the reporter’s high-powered attorney that the LAPD had acted improperly.

Calvin Milam, a reporter for the CNS news wire service, was one of many journalists in the midst of the Occupy encampment on the City Hall lawn in the early minutes of Nov. 30, when more than 1,000 officers flooded into the camp and surrounding streets to evict the protesters. Milam was arrested as he attempted to pass through an outer line of officers that encircled the camp during the operation.

Initially police had said Milam appeared intoxicated and did not seem to be working as a journalist at the time he was arrested. 

However, a video of the arrest posted last week on The Occupied Venice Journal website does not depict an obviously drunken Milam and shows him presenting officers with what appears to be his LAPD-issued media identification card.  After officers forced him back a few times, Milam held up his press card for several seconds and then pushed his way between two officers in an effort to leave. As he did, officers took Milam to the ground.  The arrest occurs around the 3:00 mark of the video.

Cmdr. Andy Smith said miscommunication between officers may have led the LAPD’s media relations office to confuse Milam with another person arrested who was drunk.

Milam’s attorney, Mark Geragos, rejected that explanation, saying he had several phone conversations with senior officials from the LAPD and city attorney’s office in the hours after Milam was arrested.  “They knew exactly who he was," Geragos said. "They were lying then, and they are lying now.”

Smith defended the decision to take the reporter into custody, saying Milam had ignored "clear directions" police gave protesters and reporters who wanted to depart before arrests began.  Designated exit points were at the north and south end of the City Hall Park, Smith said.  The video shows Milam trying to leave on the west side of the park.

"He basically charged through the police line," Smith said. "You can't do that."

Geragos again dismissed this notion, saying police failed to make clear how people should leave the park.

Milam’s arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 6.  Geragos said his client would not participate in the diversion program the city attorney’s office offered in lieu of traditional prosecution to many of the nearly 300 people arrested.

In response to the questions about the arrest, the Police Department's internal affairs division has launched an investigation, Smith said.

[Updated at 5:16 p.m.: Details about the reporter's arrest were first reported by the L.A. Weekly and City Maven.]

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-- Joel Rubin at LAPD headquarters

 

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