Photographer sues Seattle Police over 2012 May Day arrest



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Posted on December 12, 2013 at 11:07 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 12 at 11:48 PM

SEATTLE -- Freelance photographer Joshua (Alex) Garland, who was covering the 2012 May Day protests in Downtown Seattle, filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court claiming his arrest for assaulting a Seattle Police officer violated civil rights.

Garland filed the litigation Monday. Seattle Police and the City Attorney's office could not comment.

"It's another slap on the wrist," said Garland, "[Seattle Police] has the Department of Justice breathing down their throat.  If you add more cases to that, maybe they'll get the idea they've done something wrong."

According Garland's lawsuit, he was taking pictures near 1st and Pike when his friend was arrested by police. As he tried to take pictures along a police line, he was also taken into custody.

In its charging documents, Seattle Police alleged Garland "had tried to push past" Officer Stephen Smith and refused to move back. Law enforcement then claimed Garland "kept trying to get by Officer Smith to the prisoner".

Officer Smith put his hand on Garland's chest to keep him away when, according to the documents, "Garland grabbed Officer Smith's left hand with both hands and twisted and squeezed, causing Officer Smith pain and concern".

Garland was charged with Third Degree Assault, a felony.

However, YouTube video surfaced soon after, contradicting the police department's account. It shows Garland waving his hand at Officer Smith, but is then pulled into a crowd of officers and arrested.

Garland said if not for the online video, "I'd still probably be in jail."

Charges were dropped, but Garland said Thursday he is suing to send a message to Seattle Police. He is also trying to recoup money spent on his criminal defense.

"There are a lot of people who either can't or won't stand up against these things," said Garland, "And I"m just not that person.  I'll do it."

After the 2012 May Day protests, an outside report highlighted planning and communication lapses by police.  Changes were made to policies for protest activity.

Garland said the issue is not preparation, but civil rights.

"I see people who are constantly being affected by the police department in a negative way," he said, "I kind of got a glimpse of that while I was in jail."

In 2013, More than $2.4 million has been paid by the City of Seattle in lawsuits filed against the police department.