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1. How I Somehow Managed to Avoid Arrest.
Reports of my almost being arrested yesterday at Congressman Ed Royce’s “Women’s Conference” have been highly exaggerated.
I was in little or no danger of being arrested during my argument with a CSUF Police Corporal yesterday, following one confrontation with Royce’s Chief of Staff Amy Porter and preceding the second confrontation that led me to leave the site on my own accord. I can certainly understand, though, why friends and onlookers might have thought otherwise (and, judging from Facebook comments and messages, apparently buzzed about it for much of the balance of the day.)
I was in no real danger because the Corporal (as I’ll call him; I see no reason to name him) was clearly experienced and knew what he was doing — and what he was doing was, I think, of larger interest for others who may be in the same sort of situation. More importantly, he knew what he was not doing — the automatic bidding of political agents who want to use the threat of force to stifle dissent.
Now admittedly — give me a stupider, less well-trained, or more belligerent officer in that situation and I might have had some trouble. But the Corporal’s behavior from the very beginning demonstrated to me that he understood the applicable constitutional law and was not going to be goaded into telling me what Chief of Staff Porter seemed to want him to say: that I could not peacefully exercise my First Amendment rights at a public event at a public space. That would have put the Fullerton Campus Police (maybe the Fullerton Police itself, and maybe the University) on the hook.
It would not, however have likely put Chief of Staff Porter or Congressman Royce themselves on the hook, even though they might have been the ones seeking to get the police to act. (That’s just how the system works — and it’s why I have some sympathy for cops and much respect for good ones. Often, someone else is trying to get them to exceed their authority — and, when it’s a local Congressman and his Chief, that carries some weight.)
I’m very aware of one other thing, something that I’m sure has occurred at least to activists reading this, that leads me to caution others who might try this themselves. I had several privileges working in my favor. Middle-aged. Middle class. White. Male. Attorney. Known to the FPD. (Semi) political figure. Political writer. No threat, given my physical conditioning, of being able to flee on foot. Cannily surrounded by witnesses. Well-dressed and groomed. (OK, I threw in that last sentence as a joke.) A similarly groomed 19-year-old working-class Latino male with a weaker understanding of the law would not necessarily have fared as well in such an encounter. (To be fair, for all I know the Corporal may be one of those exemplary cops who truly does treat all people equally in all circumstances, in which case — good for him!)
In any event, I knew my rights and was willing to assert them. I don’t blame the Corporal for trying to make everyone’s life a little easier by impelling me not to assert them; that’s his job. I blame the people who tried to get him to do it. I think that it says something really disturbing about them.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up and look at the photograph that precipitated the confrontation.
2. “And You Call Yourself a Lawyer?”
Between the confrontation that I am about to describe and my discussion with the Corporal, while we were walking briskly out of the Student Union building, I had a discussion with $168,411/year Royce Chief of Staff Amy Michelle Porter in which she gave me the impression that she was a somewhat lower-level functionary. It went something like this:
AMY: You don’t even have a law firm!
GREG (thinking to himself): Whaaaaaa’? Where did that come from? Didn’t you see my ad in OJB?
GREG (out loud): So I presume that you know me?
AMY: Oh yes, we know you — you’re a joke!
I love this sort of trash talk. I wish that I’d been able to squeeze out a tear of humiliation, but I was preoccupied. Porter had a point, though: if my major interest were in pursuing a case of defamation against her and (possibly though less likely) Royce’s aide Young Kim (whose I-hope-innocent role I’ll get to below), I would never put my cards on the table at the outset like I’m doing here. I would not have published my full set of photos of the event (as I did yesterday) — except for one — prior to discovery, let alone including their time stamps. I would not be presenting a statement publicly here in writing, to which I might be later held, describing what happened and why I ended up storming out of the building. If seeking a legal remedy for slander were my primary purpose, then my publishing these items and discussing them would indeed be a joke — and if I had an attorney I would fully expect to him or her to stuff me into a burlap sack and transport me to a cellar in a distant farmhouse between now and a hearing. (I’ve never actually done that with a client — but like most litigators I’ve occasionally wished that I could.)
I certainly wouldn’t repeat the defamatory charge against me publicly, as I do below, because of the prospect of undermining such a lawsuit. A defamation claim is nothing without establishing damages; by publicizing the claim beyond those who would have heard it at the time, I open the door to the defense than any damages I might suffer were due to my own actions rather than to those of Porter and Kim. So, yeah — that would pretty much make me a joke of an attorney, if that were my motive.
If I’m letting people know that if they lie about me I will make them pay a political price, though, by telling the truth about the exchange — then, I suppose, it could make sense.
By the way, I found the “you don’t have a law firm!” comment so charming because it was so wonderfully indicative of a certain DC mindset, where “real law” is the sort of thing practiced by big firms like Covington & Burling and Greenberg Traurig, where is it yoked to a respectably gigantic lobbying and defense-of-corruption business. The notion than a callow Amy Porter would consider independent solo practice a “joke” is more pleasing to me than it should be. Yeah, it’s just little old me in my “firm” (which I actually just call an “office.”) But — I also write for a blog!
(“Ha — he says he also writes for a blog!”, I hear echoing from Royce’s office in DC. One of the sad aspects of life, in my opinion, is that self-deprecating humor is so often lost on the powerful but obtuse.)
3. Excuse Me, Were We Talking About a Photo of Some Sort?
Oh yeah. Sorry. Here’s a cropped version of the photo from yesterday, with the faces of people I don’t know masked.
This is a cropped version of the photo that appeared in yesterday’s post (mostly to take out extraneous people.) As you can see — although I didn’t yet see at the time, as I was simply focused on getting a photo of Ed Royce for OJB’s photo file because I’m tired of using the same old posed-and-grinning official portraits of him and he’s hard to catch in public outside of “limited access” events — a blurred Amy Porter is hurtling toward me at great speed. A less-blurred Sarah Catalan (in the back) is moving into action. Ed Royce himself appears to have suddenly dropped into a defensive posture (bending at perhaps a 10-degree angle), based on the fact that the bottom of his tie is still moving. His wife is motionless and apparently undisturbed by the prospect of someone who had a few minutes previous photographed her from ten feet away now photographing her husband from ten yards away. (How one can explain that indifference, I don’t know. Perhaps she just trusted in Ms. Porter’s ability to prevent a tragedy.)
Clearly, something had happened between my taking photos 10-20 minutes before and my taking them now. That something appears likely to have involved a conversation (directly or through intermediaries) between Amy Porter and Royce staffer Young Kim. (Because Kim is apparently Royce’s favored candidate to run against Sharon Quirk-Silva for the 65th Assembly seat next year, this is of greater public interest than might otherwise be so.) As described in yesterday’s story, I had taken Kim’s photo for our files — with her somewhat apprehensive but nevertheless explicit permission — about 15-20 minutes previously.
Word of that event had apparently reached Amy Porter. Now Amy Porter was about to reach me.
The exact order of events and utterances is somewhat of a blur, but here are the highlights. I was told that I had no right to take photos there and then. I believe that I said something along the lines of “oh yes I do,” and noted that it was a public event at a public site. (I only later realized that I could have added that I was not actually in the event at that moment, which was being held in various rooms, but out in the public hallway. No one was required to register before entering the building, nor before going into the rooms. It was not a high-security situation.) At some point I may have mentioned that I was covering the event for this blog; regardless, she mentioned that I was not registered as press and I said that I didn’t have to be to take a photo there. After a short time, I believe that she mentioned that she could call security if I persisted in maintaining that I could take photos (either at all or at least without signing up as press.) I suggested that we go off and find them ourselves. She did — and off we went. It was just after our leaving the building, as I recall — possibly preceded by my introducing myself and asking her name — that I was informed that I didn’t have a law firm.
I don’t recall what if anything precipitated that statement. (I expect that Porter may remember, and that I may even agree with some of her recollections that vary from my account — see what a lousy attorney I’m being? — in ways that are not what we attorneys call “material.” (In other words, ones that don’t pass the “OK, so what?” hurdle.) I don’t think that I’d threatened a law suit and to that point I didn’t even know that they knew who I was. Well, I did know that one person knew who I was at that point, because she had directly asked me my name: Young Kim.
4. “The Notorious G.A.D.”
This is a good point at which to circle back and describe my earlier encounter with Young Kim. As detailed in my post of yesterday, I had made a circle of the breakout sessions I could find to try to get a sense of the attendance at the conference, which I suspected was not all that high. My second stop on that circuit was through a hallway. As I entered I passed a smartly dressed woman unfamiliar to me, who I noticed as I passed her had the nametag “Young Kim.” “Oh,” I thought, “the candidate Royce is putting up against Sharon Quirk-Silva!” She was walking out of the hallway, though, so while I would have liked to get her photo for our file dealing with the upcoming elections, I figured that I had lost that opportunity for the time being. I took a photo of the session on something like “How to Get Ahead in Your Career”, closed the door, and came back into the hallway. Young Kim had re-entered and was walking towards me. Good! I could get my photo!
As we made eye contact, I asked her if I could take her photo. She seemed a little taken aback — she may not have been asked for her photo by strangers prior to intending to run for office (and I hope that the many future encounters of that nature she has in store turn out better than this one did) — and asked me why I wanted to take her photo. Taken aback myself — yo! you’re a politician now! — I said something silly like “so I can keep a copy of it.” She looked puzzled, so I explained that I write for a local publication and wanted a file photo. She asked me my name; I introduced myself as “Greg Diamond.” (This didn’t seem to register. Clearly, I should have put more signs up in my State Senate race last year.) She asked me who I wrote for. “Orange Juice Blog.” I think I may have repeated my question, but whether prompted by me or not she said that I could take her photo. I gave her a moment to pose nicely, then snapped the photo.
I remember through the viewfinder that she was smiling nicely. Looking at the photo, as I said yesterday, I suspect that I took the photo just after it started to register to her who “Greg Diamond” and/or “Orange Juice Blog” were. At that moment, I thought I had a photo of a smile that was not yet fading; I thanked her, left, and headed off for the next room. If I had acted like a real paparazzo, I might have been able to get a picture of her bug-eyed and screaming at me, but that hadn’t been what I wanted. I wanted just a normal, nice photo.
This all sounds sort of banal — and perhaps even silly, I recognize. It becomes important later.
[Disclosure: I consider Sharon Quirk-Silva a friend and ran as a fellow Democrat in a State Senate district largely overlapping hers. I’ve volunteered for her; my youngest two daughters did so as well, at my behest. I’m a friend and political colleague of her husband’s. My wife just submitted a painting for use in her Sacramento office. As the North Area Vice Chair for the Democratic Party of Orange County, working to get her re-elected is a large part of what I am supposed to be doing this electoral cycle. I have written favorably about her in the past, I will endorse her when she runs this year, and will almost surely write favorably about her as well.
And, as she knows, I would not lie for her or cheat for her or play dirty tricks for her. Period.]
That out of the way, on we go.
5. An Inspired Explanation
When Amy Porter and I stepped outside of the Union, we looked for the local police. I think that she spotted him some distance away. I hailed him as “Officer” (a term that he would quickly correct when I used it again.) While he finished his conversation before coming over, at least I don’t think that he had yet arrived, Porter and I continued to argue about whether I could take photos inside the student union. Then, Porter seemed to have an inspiration –and said something that made me not like her very much at all.
I should explain: I generally get along reasonably well with Republicans. I understand that even decent people want to get ahead in the world, and the patronage of a prominent politician like Royce is very useful to that end. Not all Republican staffers (or Democrats, for that matter) are ideological; many of them are simply doing a job. That it’s a job that I would choose not to do does not, in my book, make them bad people. Many of them tend to be a bit dull, in a “Smithers on The Simpsons” sort of way, because subjugating one’s own ability to reason morally and ethically about the world takes its cognitive and psychic toll — but as job hazards go that’s one of the less carcinogenic ones.
In the midst of this conversation, Porter suddenly squeezed her pursed mouth into a tight smile, as in an “I’ve got you now” sort of expression. She said (and like other direct quotes this is my paraphrase from memory):
“I’ll tell you why you can’t take photos: many women in this conference have been stalked, and it is very upsetting to them to have people taking their picture.”
She then settled back into an even more intense and somewhat self-satisfied tight triumphant smile, conveying something like “take that, you bastard.”
Wow. Wow! That explanation had a surface plausibility — even though the keynote address by Kathleen Baty, the “Safety Chick” who has seemingly made a decent career of telling people how to prevent and correct stalking, was not starting for another almost two hours. I was truly rocked back on my heels for perhaps a full two seconds before a variety of questions flooded into my mind:
- Has anyone here complained to you about anyone taking their photo or suggested that it would disturb them?
- If it would disturb them, why would I nevertheless be allowed to take photos if I had signed up as press? Given that anyone could lay claim to one — and a stalker might be especially likely to come prepared with false credentials — how would that ease their minds even if they saw the pass?
- Does the fact that I had not entered most rooms while people were present, and that when I did so I stayed in the back corner of the room so as not to be obtrusive, factor into this equation?
- Come to think of it, what does any of this have to do with my taking a picture of your boss, out in the open, not even participating in an event?
- Come to think of it further, if your concern had been regarding upsetting victims of stalking, why wouldn’t you come up to me quietly, explain your concern, and ask me to desist voluntarily, as I’d likely have done, rather than loudly threatening to have me removed?
- Come to think of it even further, if this was such an issue, why didn’t anyone raise it to me while I was openly taking photos all over the place, including right in front of the Congressman and his wife, for 15 minutes previously?
- Is your sudden panic response because you learned that I was an Democrat who opposes Royce?
I think that I raised only the first of these questions with her, maybe another one as well, but as her creative insight clearly hadn’t worked she had changed the subject. One thought remained in my mind, though:
You just tried to get me, for your own political reasons, to get me not to take photos of your boss, not only by threatening me with police use of force but also by dragging in the suffering of stalking victims as your justification even though that clearly was not what motivated you. What sort of person does a thing like that?
I then realized that Royce’s very claim to fame when it comes to women’s issues was his early sponsorship of a bill against stalking. And now, the suffering of victims was being used to try to get me not to take photos of him?
Well! What a beautiful display of unacknowledged irony! No wonder she had looked self-satisfied!
It was about then that the officer, I mean Corporal, had arrived.
6. He is Not Going to Tell Me I Can’t Go In, but I Should Think About It First
I’ve gotten flak from the left (and the libertarian right), both online and in person, for adopting an understanding position towards police in their encounters with people over the course of their duties. “Their primary interest is in controlling the situation so that no crimes to person or property get committed,” I explain. “If you don’t want to get arrested, possibly legitimately, you have to honor that and obey lawful commands.”
This is why I am a lousy revolutionary — but it’s also one reason that no one in Occupy Orange County was cited and went to jail for any activity related to protest, at least until I’d stepped back from active work as its Civic Liaison a week or so before the continuous occupation ended.
Police do have an additional interest relevant here, and in my experience in Orange County — a privileged, white, male, educated, middle-class, middle-aged interest, to be sure — most of them tend to be attentive to it: protecting the exercise of rights. In most situations I’ve seen, if someone is trying to prevent you from doing something that you have a right to do, the police are not going to arrest you for doing it (and they will sometimes explain to them why they won’t do so.
As any honest elected official (or staffer for the same) should know, however — when they are trying to get you not to do something, it is not “most situations.” This places a heightened moral responsibility on elected officials not to abuse the power that they will likely be afforded.
Regardless of who is complaining about citizens exercising a right, the police have one good tool to resolve the situation without conflict: to induce you to decide not to do so voluntarily. Obviously, there is a possible element of coercion in such interactions, but coercion doesn’t have to rise to the level of force. It can stay simply at the level of “reasoning” with the person. The Corporal had initially wanted me to go off a ways to reason with me, but I refused, deciding to stay in front of Amy Porter (and, for that matter, other witnesses as well.)
I won’t recap most of the conversation — and I would be MORE THAN HAPPY to acknowledge here any amendments or corrections that the Corporal wished to make to my account of it below — but it largely centered around my asking whether he was ordering me, under color of his authority, not to enter the building and continue to take pictures. He was smart enough not to do so. He did say (again, my paraphrase) that they had reserved the space, were having an event, and had some authority to ask me to comply with their rules. I asked him if he saw his role as enforcing their interpretation of the rules. He said that he would not answer such a question in the abstract. He stressed to me that he was not now talking to me in the capacity of doing active law enforcement. If I went inside and then called him in, he would then appraise the situation at the time and take appropriate actions, which could be demanding my compliance or could even include arrest. I asked whether he would be giving me an opportunity to comply before proceeding with arrest. He told me, reasonably enough, that he could not offer any such assurance. (Indeed, how could he? Perhaps I would whip out my cell phone and “violently” take another photo of Ed Royce from ten yards away. Would there be time to warn before interceding?)
I mention the above in detail because it’s a good example — with a knowledgeable and reasonable cop and me asking what I think were the right questions — of how such an interaction between police and civilian might take place. My guess is that, given such an interaction, most people would choose not to exercise whatever right they claimed out of prudence. After all, arrest hadn’t been ruled out. I’ll tell you what i did in this next section.
7. Confrontation Over “Confrontation”
Deciding the talk to the Corporal in front of Amy Porter had a tactical side: I wanted to know what she’d be saying about me before having a confrontation in real time inside the Student Union. We argued the case a bit in front of the Corporal, who did not want to act as a judge and certainly didn’t want to review the photographic evidence I was to in discussing various parts of the study. I certainly wasn’t prepared for one thing that she had brought up to the Corporal, however.
She told him in the latter half of the conversation that Young Kim had complained to her that I had taken her picture without her permission, suggesting that I had been hounding her like a paparazzo. (That’s funny — were that true, I would have thought that that would have been the first thing that one would say — both to the police and to me.)
I reacted poorly to this. I’ve already described above what I had said and done to try to obtain the photo of Sharon Quirk-Silva’s likely competitor for Assembly. I was certainly forward in trying to take her photo at all, but did not take it candidly, had requested her permission, had given her the identifying information that she sought about me, had waited for her consent, and had allowed her to compose herself so as to present an attractive photo. That, to me, is simply “fair play.” To be accused of hounding her to grab a candid photo? Well, that was extremely irritating.
As I recall, my initial reaction was something along the lines of squeaking “She said WHAT???” followed by saying that that was not what happened — and that, if Young Kim was saying otherwise, I wanted to go in and confront her — yes, I used the word “confront” — about lying about me. Unlike almost everything else I’m writing here, whether a prospective Assembly candidate is a liar is a very significant story. That’s why the question of whether it’s true is in this story’s title. If she was accusing me of something that we both knew I didn’t do, I wanted her to do it to my face.
I haven’t known much about Young Kim besides “Royce staffer, married to an older guy named Charles Kim, lived in La Habra until recently moving to Fullerton to run for AD-65 with Royce’s sponsorship and support.” None of that involves issues of character. This did.
Oh — and one other thing: I realized that Amy Porter might be lying about what Young Kim had told her. (Unlike the situation with Young Kim, no one much cares if Porter is a liar — I get the impression from some Capitol Hill staffers that that may be part of the job description — although lying to a police officer to get him to intercede it barring someone from a public event would be taking the job particularly far.) So, I not only wanted to look at Young Kim’s face when I conveyed what Porter had reported to me about her charges; I wanted to look at the faces of other Royce staffers who might have heard Kim’s explanation and — if this happened — knew that Porter had twisted it to try to make me look bad to a cop. Barring some massive benign miscommunication, it had to be one or the other.
Let me amend that before someone else does: logically, of course, I could be lying here about not ambushing Young Kim. You can look at the photo of Kim, among other things, and judge for yourself. I would just say that if I were trying to frame someone, I sure chose an odd way to do it, being completely dependent on Amy Porter blurting out her allegation when and where she did. (“BAD criminal mastermind! No maniac treat for you!”)
At the end of the conversation, I asked the Corporal whether he was ordering me not to enter the building and take photos. He said that he was not doing so. OK then, I said, I’m going back in.
8. I am Publicly Defamed.
I started walking towards the entrance of the Student Union. Amy Porter appeared to be surprised by my decision, although my memory of what she said is unclear. (It may have been a Three Stooges-style “Why, you! … I oughta…! Whoop-whoop-whoop!” I can’t say that for sure — but there were witnesses who might be able to tell!) She hurried ahead of me down the hallway — and when she got to where various Royce staffers were gathered she said loudly for all to hear, but apparently directed specifically to a woman in yellow whom I mistakenly took to be her boss, that I was:
“coming into the Student Union because he wants to harass Young Kim.”
(Did I mention that this was at a so-called WOMEN’S CONFERENCE?)
I think that I managed to stay north of becoming completely unglued, but this hit me like a baseball bat. I’m a plaintiff’s employment attorney. Part of my business involves pursuing charges of SEXUAL HARASSMENT! Now I was being loudly accused, at a woman’s conference, of harassing a woman? (Yes, it was not an accusation of sexual harassment. How very mitigating that was; I’m sure that no one would assign that meaning to it — at a women’s conference, would they?)
Unless Young Kim was ultimately at fault, my opinion is this: of all of the bad ideas that Amy Porter had had in the past 10-15 minutes, this was by far the worst. My instinctive reaction, based on years of legal training? Look for a witness! I chose poorly. I chose the blonde woman to whom she had directed that comment — who is, if I understood Royce’s staff list correctly, her direct subordinate.
Recognizing that this is paraphrase, it went something like this:
“Did you hear what she just said to you?”
(I don’t recall her response.)
“Did you hear her say that I harassed someone?”
What’s your name?
Can I have your last name?
(Words, gestures, or behavior to the effect of: “no.”)
Happily for me, I found her last name — if I should need it.
As I said way up there above, to me this is not so much about the defamation (although I am pissed about it); if it were, you’d see it only in a complaint. It’s about who is lying. If Young Kim, caught at having been unwittingly outwitted by me into having her picture taken, was later met with a chorus of “OH MY GOD NOT HIM!” when she conveyed the story — and then made up the story that I had just ambushed her to get her photo — than that reflects badly on her character. It’s a small thing — but it would be a telling one. She’d face far worse provocations and temptations to lie, after all while in the Legislature — and with much greater consequences. And if this is what happened, by the way, then in that major respect Amy Porter did nothing wrong with respect to the accusations — nothing except for (1) trying to get the cops to scare me to the point where I would not exercise my First Amendment rights and (2) trying to convert the suffering of stalking victims into political gain — but I might cynically suggest that if the latter is what she did, she has learned from the expert.)
If Young Kim was merely nervous, flustered, and regretful at allowing me (once identified) to take her photo, and conveyed no more than that to Amy Porter, then Ed Royce’s Chief of Staff is a despicable liar who built what would have been a small disagreement into a big one — and, to the extent that her statement actually damaged me (and I had chosen to play my cards accordingly) into a huge one. That in turn reflects very badly upon Ed Royce.
I don’t know which it is. My sole demand at this point is for an apology from whoever’s actions generated what became this well-broadcast slander against me. They can decide who should apologize. My only request, if it’s not too much to ask, is that the apology come from the actually guilty party.