Ignoring the U.S. Department of Justice’s guidelines written explicitly for them, Baltimore police officers arrested a newspaper photojournalist for attempting to document a raid on a party, claiming he single-handely caused other party goers to throw debris at officers, causing them to fear for their lives.
But Noah Scialom, a photographer for the city’s weekly newspaper, City Paper, has a completely different version of the events that took place Friday night that landed him in jail on charges of disobeying a lawful order and possession of marijuana.
Scialom said he was attending a party at a public venue where a local band was playing but police raided it after determining it was illegal because they lacked the proper permit.
After he was ordered out of the venue, he stood on the sidewalk taking photos, which is what led to his arrest, according to his own report in City Paper:
I continued to take photos and had stopped walking once I reached the sidewalk. I consciously said to myself that I am a safe, because I am on public property. Sgt. Wilson was moving about, telling people to leave, standing about five feet away from me. I took a few quick photos of him (including the one here), understanding from his rather tense jaw that he did not like it. He said nothing directly to me. I turned to my left and took another photograph of an officer standing by the fence, at which point I was, without warning, violently taken to the ground by Sgt. Wilson and my camera flew from my hand and bounced on the pavement. A knee was jabbing me in the back, and Sgt. Wilson was screaming for me to stop resisting as I lay there covered in police. I saw CP web editor and photographer Joe Giordano pick up my camera, and I told him to keep shooting. I was cuffed and on the ground surrounded by police and partygoers, then was picked up by a different police officer who roughly moved me toward the paddy-wagon and then shoved me inside after opening the doors. It was empty. This police officer then drove from the parking lot to the middle of the street. He left me alone in the wagon, and I started taking pictures from my cellphone and uploaded one photo to Instagram to make my ordeal public. I also texted a friend for a lawyer’s phone number, figuring I would probably need it to get out of jail.
But police claim the rail-thin photographer was blocking the front entrance as he took photos, causing the other party-goers to remain trapped inside, prompting party-goers on the second floor to begin throwing debris at police officers, which caused them “imminent danger.”
So police had no choice but to tackle him and order him to “stop resisting” as he handed his camera off to another City Paper journalist who snapped a photo of his arrest.
Once in the paddy wagon, Scialom pulled out his cell phone and took took another photo, posting it on Instagram.
On the way to the police station, the cop driving the vehicle suddenly stopped, walked around back and demanded his phone.
At the station, police said he pulled out a small bag of marijuana and tried to throw it over the booking window, which surprisingly, did not cause them to fear for their lives.
In an interview, Scialom said “the police account is full of lies.”
“There were tons of people around, and I was singled out for taking photographs,” he said. “I’m not the only person they told not to take pictures – I’m the only one who didn’t stop.”