Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wiener Uses SF Sheriff
to Intimidate Citizen Journalist

As I go about my day out and about in San Francisco, as a citizen journalist, I frequently snap lots of photos including ones of public figures in public places.

Remember my May 17, 2010, photo of Judge Vaughn Walker, pictured at right, having dinner with his friend AIDS executive Brett Andrews of the Positive Resource Center in a gay restaurant in the Castro, during the Prop 8 gay marriage lawsuit, before Walker exited the closet? Perfect example of my unique brand of documenting what I see in my daily routine.

I mention this because of a few of the questions posed to me this morning, with my attorney Derek St. Pierre present, during an intimidating 25-minute interview conducted by two deputies of the San Francisco Sheriff's Department at their 25 Van Ness office.

On the table was an inch-thick paper folder with my name and the case number of the complaint filed by Supervisor Scott Wiener, over the photo I snapped of him at a sink in a public restroom at City Hall in October.

The deputies explained that Wiener has filed a complaint against because he thinks the photo is inappropriate, as investigators in the security detail for City Hall they are obligated to conduct an interview. I was told twice that I was not under arrest and could leave at any time, and the interrogation lasted just under half an hour.

My attorney's request for a copy of the complaint and case file was rejected. Derek asked that the sheriff contact him should they have any further questions, or wish to bring a charge and arrest me, so he be present when I turn myself in, if we get to that point.

Stop and think about this situation for a moment. An ambitious supervisor is upset over a citizen journalist taking his photo in a public room at City Hall, and he got two sheriff's deputies investigating me and using taxpayer dollars to intimidate a blogger. Does the photograph really rise to the level of a taxpayer witch-hunt? For Wiener, the clear answer is yes.

For me, Wiener and the sheriff's department are blowing up an image all out of proportion that I took as part of my mundane day on October 26, when I was at City Hall for a photo-op I and fellow gay activist Charlie Hinton, pictured far right, organized.

Erick Martinez, pictured center in dark red shirt, is a brave gay Honduran democracy advocate and political journalist who has been targeted for death by the rightwing militia controlling his country. Charlie and I arranged for Erick to meet LGBT Supervisors David Campos, pictured second from left, and Christina Olague, standing next to our visiting Latin American dignitary.

The photo-op took place in the Grand Rotunda of City Hall with all of us standing in front the Harvey Milk Bust.

Our purpose in creating the photos and video was to build Erick's profile in the United States among the gay blogosphere and in the Honduran press and politically-charged social media, because a higher profile could make the junta leaders who want him dead think twice about assassinating him as they have assassinated Erick's friends and journalist colleagues Erick Avila and Walter Trochez.

Now that the interrogation is over, Big Mike and I are keeping on with our plans for the Thanksgiving holiday. As the Wiener-driven investigation continues, I'll share updates when necessary.


1 comment:

Clinton Fein said...

Mike. I regret that you had to waste your time (and our money) on this "investigation."

I've seen some comments online excoriating you for taking that photo of Scott Wiener in the restroom.

As a staunch privacy advocate, my gut instinct would be to criticize the photo (even though he is washing his hands, not peeing.)

But Scott Wiener is a public figure. Not only that, he's a public figure who, through his legislative proposals and laws, has demonstrated that he has nothing but contempt for the First Amendment and even less respect for sunshine and transparency.

I have pointed out on numerous occasions that you and I often share the same goals, but have very different brands of activism in how it comes to achieving them.

And sometimes, because your techniques make people uncomfortable when they involve confronting people with the truth or holding them accountable, others are willing to throw you under the bus, unable to discern your tactics from your motives and motivations.

You are one of the hardest working, passionate activists I know, and while I don't think snapping Scott Wiener washing the nasty stains of bitchy money and special interests off his gangly hands in a public restroom is necessarily the best way to win friends and influence people, I also know that your intentions are honorable when it comes to the community, and they, in turn, should support you.

I can only hope that Scott Wiener looks in the mirror and ask himself whether spending the city's already-strapped resources on investigating you for snapping an innocent photo, annoying as it may have been, is what his district elected him to do.