New York City, NY

Freelance photojournalist Stephanie Keith arrested at Neely protest

Image Stephanie Keith posted to her Instagram Story after arrestPhoto byBackground: Pamela Drew (CC 2.0)

Stephanie Keith, an NYC-based freelance photographer, was arrested Monday while covering a Jordan Neely demonstration.

Neely is a man who was killed on a New York subway after former Marine Daniel Penny put him in a chokehold.

The protest where Keith was arrested attracted about 150 protesters and resulted in about 11 arrests, according to a police press conference after the event.

Keith told Anadolu she was charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with arrests but was just doing her job.

Police claim was she, and others, were ignoring their orders, interfering with their efforts, and creating public safety risks.

“I want to make it clear, we respect people’s right to protest. We respect their First Amendment rights, said NYC chief of department Jeffrey Madrey. He said the police understand why people want to elevate their voices and the police support it. “But we will not tolerate people breaking the law.”

Madrey was not present when Keith was arrested. But chief of patrol John Chell was, and is seen grabbing her and telling other officers to “lock her up.”

At the press conference, amid questioning over Keith's arrest, Chell took to the mic and explained, “The reporter interfered in at least two arrests in the middle of the street. We got very physical. The third arrest, she interfered a third time. So, she was placed under arrest.”

Chell did not go into which of the arrest Keith allegedly interfered with or how she interfered. He did say that there were numerous warnings about being in the street and obstructing traffic.

In the video below, police are seen trying to contain the crowd on sidewalk. Keith is seen running around police into the street to try to take pictures.

“Get on the sidewalk,” Chell yells. He moves moves Keith back toward the sidewalk and begins to say, “Lock her up. Lock her up,” as he hands her off to other officers.

It is unclear how many warnings, if any, were issued before this.

Keith begs them, "please don't" arrest her.

As Keith is being moved to police van, a police announcement is being made telling people they are blocking the roadway. “I am ordering you to go back on the sidewalk now. If you do so voluntarily, no charges will be placed against you.”

If you remain in the roadway and refuse to get on the sidewalk, you will be subject to arrest, the announcement continues.

As Keith is being taken to the police van, she is warning that police that they are going “to get so sued,” and her lawyer is probably already on it.

But apparently, they arrested her anyway.

Madrey said that he was told by his officers at the scene “that every violation that occurred, there were numerous orders to refrain from that conduct, to stop that conduct. It wasn’t like we saw somebody doing something and we immediately went for an arrest.”

Chell also told the people at the press conference who were at the process that the heard the “multiple warnings” about obstructing traffic. He said not only are you not allowed to be in the street but “it’s a danger factor. The traffic was open.”

“We're just doing our job and we should not be arrested,” Keith told Anadolu after she was released from custody.

“We are not protesting, we are documenting the experience of police interacting with protesters. So, we are separate from that and we should not be arrested. We should be allowed to do our jobs.”

Anadolu said Keith denies interfering, and said “I was standing shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues and we always maintain a very respectful distance.”

The AP reported that The New York Press Photographers Association said, “We support our colleague and believe that a review of the evidence and circumstances will compel the Manhattan D.A. to drop any charges against her.”

Also of note, during the police press conference, Madrey revealed that a Molotov cocktail was found at the scene once they moved the crowd out of the street. The item has not been attached to anyone.
The officer to the left holds what is supposed to be a photo of the Molotov cocktail. Madrey is at center, and Chell is to the right.Photo byScreenshot from NYPD press conference

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