Updated with link and information from El Nuevo Herald, which mentioned the incident in its article. Not only did these exiles think I was a communist, but one of them said I was a spy for Fidel Castro or in his words, “an agent of Cuban intelligence”. You can’t make this stuff up.
I was shooting video and taking photos of the Code Pink protest today at Versailles, in which they were denouncing Luis Posada Carriles as a terrorist.
Naturally, more than 100 Cuban exiles came out to defend Posada’s honor.
Miami police were doing an excellent job keeping the two groups separated, but allowing them to express their opinions, which essentially boiled down to both groups calling each other “terrorista” and “communista” through bullhorns from across the street for what seemed like hours.
Code Pink was on the sidewalk across from Versailles. The exiles were in front of Versailles. I was walking back and forth, along with other photographers and videographers, to capture both sides.
At one point, a man with a Vigilia Mambisa t-shirt approached me and said he has been observing me and knows that I am “un communista“. He arrived at this conclusion because he had seen me conversing with members of Code Pink while I was on the other side.
I pointed out that I have also been talking to members of the Cuban exile group. And no matter what my political affiliations are, I still have the right to film both sides, just as Code Pink has the right to speak their mind and the Cuban exiles have the right to speak their mind.
He said something like, “Communists have no rights”, I have it on video, which I will eventually post.
For the record, I was not hired by Code Pink or any other organization to shoot today’s video or the previous video. I shot these videos to post them on my blog. And even though I personally believe Posada is a terrorist, I make efforts to provide both sides of the story.
I am also not a communist. I don’t support Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez, mostly for the fact that they don’t believe in Freedom of Expression. If you take a look through this blog, you will realize that Freedom of Expression, which includes photography and videography, is a pretty big deal to me.
In fact, some people think I’m “obsessed” about First Amendment issues. And considering some Cuban exiles are obsessed about anything related to Fidel Castro, well, that’s probably a recipe for disaster.
Apparently, some of the Cuban exiles told an El Nuevo Herald reporter that I was spewing pro-Chavez statements to the group, which is complete bullshit. What I was really doing was defending my journalistic freedom to document the event.
Up until the point that I was accused of being a communist, the protest was a perfect example of democracy in action; two opposing sides with two opposing views being allowed to express themselves to the fullest. I was already planning on making that the theme of the video.
But before I knew it, I was surrounded by several Cuban exiles, most of the appearing to be in their 50s and 60s, calling me “communista” and ordering me to leave Versailles. I continued filming, for this was fascinating footage.
Then a man came up to me and grabbed me by my arm, trying to escort me off the premises.
I jerked my arm away and continued filming.
Then this same man knocked the camera away, causing it to shut off.
I responded by pushing him hard in the chest with the heel of my hand.
Then I squared off to fight the rest of them, for I figured they would be coming after me.
Words were exchanged but they maintained their distance. And Miami police were quick on the scene.
Miami police took statements from myself, the assailant and several “witnesses”, who were essentially the same guys who were surrounding me, calling me a communist.
Miami police asked if I wanted to file charges. I said no because my camera was not damaged nor was I injured. And the last thing I need is another legal battle.
However, I still have that option, the officer said.
The man turned out to be a “security guard” at Versailles. He was nothing more than a goon.
I know many of you will have a field day with this. I know many of you will say this just proves that I am a troublemaker with a camera.
And others will say that this just proves that the entire Cuban exile community has no regards for the First Amendment.
So I do want to stress that most of the Cuban exiles were extremely respectful of what I was doing. At one point before the incident I just described, a young Cuban man was threatening to “stick the camera up my ass” in Spanish. He confronted me with a few other men.
I held my ground and said I had every right to be there. And a Cuban exile woman, one who had been leading the crowd in chants through a microphone, came to my immediate defense, telling her Cuban counterparts that I had every right to document the event. They ended up dispersing. She later told me I was “brave”.
I ended up interviewing that young man on camera. You will hear his story when I post the video. He is still an asshole because he kept saying, “I told you so” when cops were investigating the assault incident.
Most of the cops working the protest were Cuban American and they showed extreme professionalism in how they dealt with both sides as well as how they handled the assault incident.
I still need to edit the video, so hopefully I will have it up sometime this weekend.