Published on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 in the New York Daily News
NYC Police Shootings: Pacifica Reporter Became Part Of The Story
by Juan Gonzalez
 
I went to visit a friend at Brooklyn's Kings County Hospital early yesterday afternoon but was not allowed to see him.

When I got to the hospital, a New York City policeman was standing guard over his bed in the coronary intensive-care unit, restricting who could get near him.

"You'll have to go to the 67th Precinct to get permission," a nursing supervisor told me.

My friend's name is Errol Maitland. He was arrested by cops Saturday afternoon while he was doing his job as a radio journalist — covering the funeral of Patrick Dorismond, the unarmed Haitian immigrant shot to death March 16 by an undercover narcotics cop in Manhattan. An observer who saw the arrest says the cops jumped Maitland, 49, without provocation.

Maitland was able to provide a chilling account of the encounter to a live audience, via a cell phone he was carrying.

Police initially charged him with disorderly conduct, and two days later he still was shackled to a bed in Kings County under police guard — as if he were some deranged felon.

Errol and I have worked together for nearly five years at radio station WBAI-FM, 99.5, on a show called "Democracy Now," the Pacifica Radio network's national daily news magazine.

I co-host the show a couple of mornings a week alongside Amy Goodman, the show's regular host. Errol is the show's technical director, and he also produces the daily three-hour show that precedes ours, "Wake-Up Call.

WBAI, in case you don't know it, is a listener-sponsored noncommercial station. It has long been one of the only places on the dial where liberal and left-wing New Yorkers can find refuge from the blathering ads and shotgun news found on commercial radio.

One thing that distinguishes the station from others is its willingness to provide live reports from big protests like the one this weekend.

Errol had been calling in those short reports and doing interviews all day from the funeral when scuffling broke out between cops and demonstrators late in the afternoon.

Joel Kupferman, executive director of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, was a volunteer legal observer at the march. He was standing on a corner outside Holy Cross Church when police moved in to clear those demonstrators who had poured into the street after the funeral ended.

Kupferman recognized Errol because he had been a guest on WBAI.

"Errol was backing off as the cops were approaching, but he was still holding his phone in front of him, moving back very slowly," Kupferman said. "All of a sudden four or five cops just pounced on him. I saw him go down fast and hard to the ground, and they were all on top of him.

It was "excessive force" to use on anyone, Kupferman said, but Maitland, who is black, was there as a reporter, not a demonstrator.

His radio broadcast, a tape of which I reviewed yesterday, clearly shows that. You can hear him giving listeners an on-the-scene account.

You can hear a police commander warning over a loudspeaker: "Leave the area, leave the area, please. We need to restore order. Leave or you'll be arrested.

A moment later, over the shouts of the crowd, you hear Errol identify himself as a WBAI reporter and say, "Captain, could you give us a statement of what's going here?

That is followed by shouts and scuffles.

"I've been pushed by a police officer onto the ground," Errol screams. "He just told them to f--k me up. He told the other police to f--k me up. ... I'm down on the ground. I'm trying to get myself up. I'm now on my back. I'm still broadcasting ... you're live on WBAI. This is how the Police Department in New York is operating —"

Police said Maitland had no press credentials visible when he was arrested and that he had crossed the police line they had set up. They did not comment on allegations he was attacked.

Maitland was taken to the 72nd Precinct stationhouse, where he was charged with disorderly conduct. Michael Warren, the attorney who handled many of the arrests, said he tried to persuade cops to give desk-appearance tickets to protesters with minor charges, but that a supervisor told him orders had come "from higher up" to put everyone through the system.

Later that night, an ambulance took Maitland, who was complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath, to Kings County.

His doctor, Maxine Orris, said there was evidence of ischemia, a shortness of blood supply to the heart, and that Errol had several contusions and lacerations.

The shackles and police guard were finally removed late yesterday on orders of a Brooklyn Supreme Court justice. And police issued the desk-appearance ticket.

Copyright 2000 NY Daily News

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