Loose Lips

“Sheer Insanity” as Reporters Arrested at Taxicab Commission Hearing

The folks at the D.C. Taxicab Commission and the U.S. Park Police have got some splainin' to do, as two reporters were arrested today during a DCTC meeting for, you know, reporting.

Pete Tucker, a journalist at TheFightBack.org and a frequent advocate for independent taxi drivers, and Jim Epstein, a producer and journalist for Reason.tv, were arrested by the Park Police, apparently at the behest of members of the DCTC. Tucker and Epstein were at a DCTC public hearing that was for some reason not at its usual location but at the Park Police station at 1901 Anacostia Dr. SE.

Here's Tucker's version of events: He says he was taking pictures of commission members sitting at a dais when a hack inspector (or taxi inspector, if you don't know what hack inspector means) told Tucker he couldn't take pictures at the meeting. Tucker says he tried to continue to take pictures when the hack inspector stood in front of him, blocking his view. So Tucker says he took a picture of the hack inspector.

A bit later, says Tucker, two Park Police officers came in and told Tucker, who was sitting in the front row, that he had to leave with them. Tucker declined, saying he was a journalist at a public meeting and wasn't going to leave. After a back-and-forth with the officers, Tucker says he was handcuffed and taken out of the meeting and to a downstairs holding cell.

His arrest, as you can see from the video above, did not sit well with the cabbies in attendance. "It was sheer insanity," says cabbie Larry Frankel, who is also an prominent cab organizer.

Tucker says he was arrested while a man who was visually impaired was testifying about how hard it was to find a cab in this town that would pick up service dogs.

“You can’t arrest a reporter at a public meeting," Tucker recalls the witness saying.

After his arrest, Tucker says other Park Police officers told him he could go back to the meeting if he agreed not to take any more pictures. “If you agree to not take any pictures, or you just agree to leave, then you can just walk," Tucker says is roughly what one officer told him. Tucker says he again declined, saying that he refused to give up his right to take photos of a public hearing.

He says he was in a cell for about four hours total and could see Epstein in a separate cell, but couldn't talk to him. After being fingerprinted and photographed, Tucker says he was released from Park Police custody. He's been charged with "unlawful entry/remaining" and "disorderly conduct."

Tucker's got court dates set for next month. He says he's already spoken with reps from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Overall, Tucker says he was treated decently by the Park Police and places most of the blame at the feet of taxi officials.

“The hack inspectors and D.C. Taxicab Commission are less than transparent and need a good deal of attention, and I feel they put the Park Police in a problematic situation," says Tucker.

Tucker reported back in May of interim DCTC chairman Dena Reed's aversion to having cameras record public meetings.

"You cannot record the meeting unless the commission allows you to do so, it does not," Reed said back then. When asked to show where the commission's rules say that, Reed responded: "I can't show you anything because it's not written in there."

How wonderful.

On the other side of things, a spokesman for the Park Police did not immediately return a phone call, and the DCTC is referring calls to Mayor Vince Gray's office. A spokeswoman for the mayor says they will issue a statement after receiving an "incident report." LL is sure this is exactly what Gray wanted to be dealing with right now.

Meanwhile, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells has asked Attorney General Irv Nathan to investigate.

UPDATE: Here's a statement from Reed via the press office:

Today, Pete Tucker of Fightback.org was detained by the United States Park Police at the Park Police facility at 1901 Anacostia Drive (which is located in Anacostia Park) for disorderly conduct. He was not arrested or detained at the request of the D.C. Taxicab Commission.

I understand that Mr. Tucker was detained by the Park Police for disorderly conduct (not for filming the meeting). I was still in my Commission meeting as the exchange between Mr. Tucker and the Park Police happened in the hallway. I was not aware that he was arrested until I was leaving; I thought he was simply escorted out. The Commission has no interest in having him arrested, but his conduct outside of the meeting with the U.S. Park Police resulted in his detention. I now understand that a second person was detained, but I have no idea who he is or why he was detained.

Well, that clears it up then.

Comments

  1. #1

    Does anybody have right to speak,write or protest peacefully in DC for fear of arrest or slander? And you officials want autonomy or statehood when conduct like the DCTC and officials elected by the voters are out to steal and intimidate business owners or residents? Please boyz galz in that Congress do not allow Statehood until Harry Thomas and Kwame Brown plea guilty,resign from office and go to jail for thier high azz crimes.

  2. #2

    ONE CITY!!!

  3. #3

    That's some embarrassing shit right there.
    If she's lucky perhaps she'll suddenly realize a strong desire to "spend more time with her family", or to "pursue other interests".
    But it would be better if VG just fired her.

  4. #4

    Yeah, baby!! Gray canned Swain (who exposed a corrupt industry)and replaced him with someone who sweeps rooms for hidden cameras before talking turkey.

    Transparency, one city style.

  5. #5

    Now you guys know how we feel. :-( Park Police are kinda known for this routine.

    I hope local journalists keep this in mind when covering protests. Entirely too often it's treated as no big deal when someone is just grabbed out of a street march for simply being in the street.

  6. #6

    This is nonsense!! Who put this idiot in charge? Why is the Park police taking orders from Dena Reed and who f*** is she anyway? Another lousy appointment from Vinnie, this guy's rolodex is the worse. Where is he getting these people from? The mayor would be better served getting appointments from a temp agency than these morons.

    One City = One Joke....Stop Embarrassing DC!!

  7. #7

    One City, Zero Standards.

  8. #8

    When we start hanging those who oppress, then they will stop.

    USN, Ret

  9. #9

    "why are"... correct grammar is essential.

  10. #10

    How many women are in VG's harem? Are they all one step away from menopause madness?

  11. #11

    And now the commission is trying to blame the Park Police?
    Doubling down on a bad bet. Shameless and stupid.

  12. #12

    Tommy "the backbone" Wells has asked for an investigation. Now that's strong leadership! "The Backbone" says he's troubled. Is that more than "upset" or "concerned"? Heaven help us.

  13. #13

    One City. One Term.

  14. #14

    The taxicab commission isn't the only one thinking it can ban photography. The H. Carl Moultrie I Courthouse doesn't even let you bring a camera through the doors - treating cameras like weapons, like knives and guns. This is ridiculous - esp in a courthouse. (see http://flickr.com/mvjantzen/2423507223/)

  15. #15

    The NPS has proved not only can it not manage our parks, but
    their police force is a complete joke. What would it take to get the NPS to focus on their mission of improving public parks? At the Jefferson Memorial dance protest, I saw where they put their money: vast teams of police officers, some with riot gear (http://flic.kr/p/9QM3Mn), a police dog, and even some cops with MACHINE GUNS. Meanwhile they didn't seem to notice that they themselves were the cause of more disruption than the protesters.

    And I am sick of their handling of the Mall for July 4th: the miles of fencing, the bag checks, the mobile police towers, the overtime; it's unnecessary and a waste of money.

    And now to see those morons acting as the personal henchmen of the taxicab commission - how pathetic, and what an injustice. The Park Police force needs to be dismantled.

  16. #16

    In the past three years the taxi cab commission has been processing a bid to sell the industry, and recently the highest bidder is selected "Jerry Schaffer". This legal maneuvering is the second part of the award ceremony where the first one is the medallion bill under consideration in the council. Therefore, Deena Reed does not want to see any one whom she considers as a probable hindrance to the process.
    Sorry for those immigrants who constitute over 80% of the driver community, and imagine how they are treated by a commission that does not shy away to treat a reporter this way. Alas! is this America?

  17. #17

    One more example of Park Police idiocy: In 2009 I met people along the Billy Goat Trail who had been given $75 fines for WADING IN SHALLOW WATER along the Potomac. See http://flickr.com/mvjantzen/3880238930/ - I guess it's more fun to fine people than rescue them. But even if you support banning swimming where the current is strong, let's have a little common sense and not cite people who are walking upright with their feet in the river. But common sense is exactly what the Park Police force is missing.

  18. Billy Ray Edwards
    #18

    Jim,
    You got there a little late, Pete had a confrontation with Ms Reed on this issue, I know two wrongs don't make it right but Pete says he is a journalist, I attended this meeting and I have a problem when a reporter insert him self in to a story and become a bigger event than the issue he came there to cover and drivers walked out before the most important question was ask by Mr Ron Betha to ......the dc taxicab commission. He ask what is the process and when do the re-writting of title 31 the law that govern the dc taxi industry become Law, Ms Reed answered in 45 days and need No Approval from the DC City Council. This is the story that should have been reported to dc taxicab/owner/driver that came from else where and did not know the process, that's if Pete Tucker, had not put his self in this story and his journalistic integrity would not be in question with African American DC Taxicab/Owner/Drivers.>>Billy Ray

  19. #19

    DC has a style of politicking all its own.

  20. #20
  21. #21

    From my perspective, this type of thing is only going to get worse! Public servants are getting more and more out of line every day. As for the DC police to say Tucker was only detained but not arrested? Then what the heck is arrested? I would assume a reasonable American would say being handcuffed, put in a cell, fingerprinted and photographed is a arrest! Cops like to play on words just like the rest of the other dirty corrupted public servants. We as a nation brag about our freedom but in actuality we are quickly becoming the most non-free nation on the planet!

  22. #22

    @Billy Ray Edwards
    I am sure all those other pissed off cab drivers agree with your bullshit...............NOT! I wonder why they got pissed off and left. Could be because Mr Tucker who supports independant cab drivers got arrested for BOGUS reasons? Does that sink in to your brain any at all? The public servants brought brought that bullshit on or do you "Billy Ray Edwards" no one should be able to record a PUBLIC meeting! Stupid folks like you are why America, the ONCE great constitutional republic of brave freedom loving men and women have turned in to a bunch of whinny wussies who hate the idea of someone exercising their RIGHTS as an American!

  23. #23

    where do we get such an inexhaustible supply of dim witted crypto-fascists to enforce such bull? I would like to think there are a limited number of goons that would repress in such a fashion, if a few cops would refuse to enforce such as this, it would greatly diminish its occurrence!

  24. editor of a news site and long time resident of DC
    #24

    A reporter getting arrested for the act of reporting at a public hearing IS THE STORY and the LEDE. Other stories about changing to taxi medallions and independent driver's and the shenanigans of the taxi commission, are all related stories.

    We need MORE reporters like this to do THEIR JOB; who fight for their right to report.

    We don't need more parroting of DC govt press releases on our local social justice radio station.

  25. #25

    People need to stop excusing cops for "following orders", "just doing their jobs", etc. IMO, the people who put feet to the street and carry out the unlawful commands are just as guilty-- maybe more so-- than the ones giving the commands. Without their little goose-stepping peons with badges, the bastards are powerless.

  26. #26

    This is SICK. Take the power away from these stupid people. Go after them. Go after their homes/family everything.Stand up for your rights use the courts sue the hell out of them and there peers. The laws are here to protect us. Learn to use them with numbers Take back your right to be free..... Stop flying to stop the TSA. If NO ONE goes to the airport for a week or two this will stop. Then move on to the Trains, busses and oh yes the cabs. We Americans better start to stand or stop complaining. Grow up and grow a pair or go to the camps. Either way I am sick of hearing this. They are killing the country one person at a time. Stand up in numbers

  27. Billy Ray Edwards
    #27

    @Robert47
    You just don't know me I spent my money to protect and protest folks from else where rights to own and drive a dc taxicab and been an activest in this industry over 35 years and kicked out of more meeting than I care to remember, it's to bad you did not get the point,I'M not a Journlist who got to have some Integrity in the job to exspose the opposing point of view.
    So if you think thats Pete Tucker, I have no problem with it, Peace and Love.>>Billy Ray

  28. #28

    what are we waiting for?? "This is the the time to Act!" "We, Taxi Drivers has to strike!" We are fade up beeing harrassed at DMV,Taxi Cab Commission,Inspection also by Hack Inspectors. We are a hard working people. By working hard, if that is what we are deserved to get, we are not leaving in Amerca. Where is the Mayor?? He should come out and say or clean his corrupted administration. We are The Ambasader of The City. We run things in the city. It is shame to say for Mr. Barry "most of you are not from America; we do things here diffrently; you cab drivers don't bring nothing to the city." Those words were his words. We can show him by shutting the city down for a couple of days and then he may be understand if he thinks straight. Then we will here something from Mr. mayor if that is what it take for the mayor to act. we can't be treated this way because we are serving The Nations Capital. We make up the city. Pete Tocker and Jim Epstein, we are with you all the way.

  29. #29

    Wow, I have respect to all the cab drivers that walked out.
    You will be in history books. You don't realize it but you are making a statement about what America stands for.Free speech and free press. The corrupt officials obviously do not want transparency. The power hungry lady was wrong. The cop was wrong. You are a public servant and not god and make up your own laws.
    This is like nazi, or Russia, or Iran, china, African countries, and basically dictatorship where the lower level power hungry idiots think they can arrest person for anything.
    Slowly it is being practiced and they want to condition people by doing this and that arresting a person is norm, or 'ok'. Guilty until proven innocent? What law did he break?

  30. #30

    We need a Revolution.

    America has become the biggest police state in the world.

    It's time citizens get together to form a Revolution against tyranny by any means necessary.

  31. #31

    This cop needs to be charged with unlawful arrest/imprisonment - unlawful detainment.
    Sue for damages.

  32. #32

    I thought having a professor of constitutional law as president would put a quick end to these things, but Obama doesn't seem to have said a word on ending the police state. Not too surprisingly, I guess, since the Obama White House bans cameras from even entering the White House tours (http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/tours-and-events).

  33. #33

    Youtube has a video of John F. Kennedy saying that Freedom of the Press is in the first amendment because it is so important, and no other business is singled out for protection in our Bill of Rights. The right to report and record is a litmus test of how free we are. If there was no video of the arrest and meeting, the Commission could probably get their conviction for "disorderly conduct" which is obviously a lie. The taxi drivers were heroes for walking out. Absolutely. I was amazed and impressed. They were protecting their own freedom and ours as well. We are heading to a police state, and it is time to stop letting beaurocrats override the First Amendment. We fought the revolutionary war for these rights and every middle manager and chamber of commerce in the country thinks they can nullify our constitution at will. These two reporters and the taxi drivers are heroes. And the cops better start thinking about the kind of society they want to live in, it's their constitution too.

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