Local Photographer, Arrested at Occupy Wall Street Vigil, Vows to Fight City Hall

Photos by Tim Schreier.

Thursday afternoon we received a phone call from Tim Schreier, one of the neighborhood’s more prolific photojournalists.  Tim, who’s been documenting the Occupy Wall Street movement since it began two months ago, had quite a story to tell.  He’d just been released from jail,  after three days in custody for allegedly trespassing while covering an interfaith prayer service on the West Side.  Here’s what Tim had to tell us about his ordeal.

Tuesday morning, following the raid of Zuccotti Park, religious leaders decided to hold an event in Duarte Square, a space owned by Trinity Church on 6th Avenue near Canal Street. As Tim’s photos show, quite a few protesters converged on the site, as well as a huge contingent of police officers.

Religious leaders gathered in Duarte Square for an interfaith vigil.

Tim said the vigil, which included Catholic, Episcopalian Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim clergy, was very peaceful. But then police, in full riot gear, moved in, claiming the church wanted the “trespassers” removed from its property.  At first, Tim explained, he had simply been told to leave the square.  But a few moments later several cops began wrestling with a protester, and the officer who had been escorting Tim out became distracted. He was passed off to another officer and then arrested, along with several other journalists.  You can see some of what transpired in this video, which The Local East Village posted Friday evening (at about the 1:45 mark, Tim is handcuffed).

Police pin a protester to the ground, in Duarte Square.

Down at One Police Plaza, Tim was photographed with two different cops, neither of whom he’d seen up until that moment.  No one apparently had any idea who the “arresting officer” was. There was obviously great confusion, he said, at police headquarters and later in the courtroom where the District Attorneys office struggled to make the trespassing charges stick.

When Tim finally went before a judge, the assistant D.A. handling his case could not produce a witness and offered to dismiss the charges.  If Tim stayed out of trouble for 30 days, the trespassing charge would be removed from his record. On principle, Tim refused to accept this condition. As a result, he’s taking the case to trial in January.  “I don’t want money,” he said. “I want Michael Bloomberg and (Police Commissioner) Ray Kelly to obey the law. They can’t just make stuff up and do whatever they want.”

In a statement released last week, Trinity Church said it “respects the rights of citizens to protest peacefully and supports the vigorous engagement of the concerns of the protesters.” But at the same time, church leaders noted that they had not given permission to the protesters to enter the portion of Duarte Square it owns.

Tim tells us talks are ongoing with Trinity Church that he hopes will lead to the full withdrawal of the trespassing charges.   Regardless of the outcome, however, he said the events of the past week have been a remarkable educational experience.  We’ll let you know how Tim’s case ends up.