NEW YORK – A veteran news photographer who was tied around the media’s neck while covering the recent Jordan Neely protests demanded that officials Thursday clear her name and allow reporters to do their jobs in New York City.
New York Police Department Patrol Chief John Chell told the officers to “lock her up!” He told them personally. Five community affairs officers wrestle Stephanie Keith into the back of a police van on May 8, footage shows.
An award-winning freelance news photographer who regularly shoots for Reuters, Getty Images and The New York Times, Neely joined at least a dozen media organizations in documenting vigils at the Broadway-Lafayette Street subway station a week after he was killed aboard the F train. .
Civil rights attorney Wylie Stecklow asked a Manhattan Circuit Court judge to dismiss Keith’s disorderly conduct charge, saying the evidence was undisputed that Chell interfered in three arrests.
The video shows Chell singing Keith after she joined other photographers and began documenting officers arresting the protesters.
“Suddenly, he wheelies and moves … away from where he was caught, he grabs a journalist’s kit,” Stecklow wrote, adding that journalists who were close to the action were not caught.
“He can be heard repeatedly shouting on video, ‘Lock her up!’ Lock her up!’
The NYPD has not commented on Keith’s case and did not respond to inquiries from the New York Daily News on Thursday.
Keith’s photos are everywhere in US news coverage and local New York news.
Keith’s attorney said if the court doesn’t dismiss the case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg would have to make a prosecutorial decision on the subpoena, which city DAs can do but have had a policy since 2018.
In an email obtained by the Daily News, one of Bragg’s chief misdemeanor prosecutors cited the policy to deny Keith’s request. Gabriel Hippolyte said the office no longer handles subpoenas, saying it would be “unfair” to make exceptions to save spending resources on “minor offences”. Bragg’s office declined to comment beyond what was in the email.
The DA said last week during Neely’s protests — the highest that Keith has ever experienced — that no one would be prosecuted.
A number of press freedom groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, have called for Keith to be found out.
“Her prosecution sets the harmful precedent of prosecuting reporters simply for doing their job and documenting matters of public interest,” their letter read.
Stecklow said Keith had to defend herself against allegations that she could be arrested by any reporter assigned to her.
“They’re exploiting the system and it’s sad and sad that the Manhattan DA is holding their hands up when it’s done in front of them,” Stecklow said.
“Get up and do the right thing.”