A teacher friend of mine told the unnerving story of another teacher who got into serious trouble because students had used a cell phone to video-record him in the classroom.

Ubiquitous surveillance cameras, cellphone cameras and videos signal the coming end of privacy. However, this cuts both ways. The Abu Ghraib story got out because of cameras and videos (Rumsfeld’s response was to ban the cameras!) Now, the New York Times is reporting that Videos Challenge Accounts of Convention Unrest.

Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.

“We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed,” the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. “I had one of his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own.”


During a recess, the defense had brought new information to the prosecutor. A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints.

They are watching us but we are also watching them. With cellphone cameras, digital video and still cameras, and the internet, we have more ways to look back at Big Brother. There are millions of Little Brothers out there. Some of them will do the monkey thing and spy on each other but some of them may save your bacon when the police grab you for no reason.

A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive, lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the convention.

For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the charges against them could not be proved, according to defense lawyers and prosecutors.

Among them was Alexander Dunlop, who said he was arrested while going to pick up sushi.

Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop’s lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake.


… Moreover, many of the tapes lack index and time markings, so cuts in the tape are not immediately apparent.

That was a problem in the case of Mr. Dunlop, who learned that his tape had been altered only after Ms. Clancy found another version of the same tape. Mr. Dunlop had been accused of pushing his bicycle into a line of police officers on the Lower East Side and of resisting arrest, but the deleted parts of the tape show him calmly approaching the police line, and later submitting to arrest without apparent incident.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney, Barbara Thompson, said the material had been cut by a technician in the prosecutor’s office. “It was our mistake,” she said…

Perhaps an innocent mistake? Perhaps not. If not, someone should pay, no? Ninety percent of the arrests have been dismissed but only after innocent people spent time in jail and were harassed and roughed up. It would be nice to get some real blowback against the police-state tactics employed during the Republican National Convention in New York last summer.

They spy on us.

We spy on them.

There are more of us.

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