Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Anarchists, rioting police and an Arab-American at the Democratic Convention
I'm in Denver with a delegation from the New York Community Media Alliance. One of our number, Antoine Faisal, who is Lebanese, was on his way to an Arab-American comedy show on Monday afternoon when, near the Sheraton Hotel, he found himself in the middle of a confrontation between young anarchist protestors and riot police.
Faisal is a publisher and writer for a New York-based paper, but he originally trained as a photojournalist, and his instincts kicked in. A few minutes into the incident, he was pepper sprayed by a policeman despite saying he was press and showing his badge. He was hit in the eyes, but held onto the camera, and focused it on himself, taking pictures of his agony and of the efforts of bystanders to help him.
He shared the images with members of our group. His story will likely get some coverage as a producer for public radio and a New York Times reporter have been covering our trip.
After relaying his story in detail, and showing his dramatic pictures to us, Faisal said: "I have a surprise for you." He'd been on his way from a panel discussion and, it turned out, had inadvertently left his tape recorder on. So, he also had a dramatic audio recording of the incident.
He described himself as a person who is generally sympathetic to police but said of these officers: "They don't honor or deserve the uniform they are wearing.
"As a journalist, I was doing my job. I wasn't threatening them. I didn't cross any lines. This is why we have press credentials." .
He recalled the pain as the worst he's ever experienced, but given what has happened over the past several decades in his home city of Beirut, he said "it's nothing."
After his recovery, he went to the comedy show and took pictures there, too.
[Photo: Antoine Faisal tells his story to the New York Times and to the "Feet in 2 Worlds" radio project.]