A freelance photographer says he was arrested for taking pictures of Baltimore Police breaking up a party on Friday night.
Police, meanwhile, said the photographer, Noah Scialom, refused to leave and blocked the flow of partygoers who had been ordered out, and tried to discard a bag of marijuana after being taken to Central Booking. They say a CCTV camera shows that Scialom was in the way, and that the organizer of the party will face charges as well.
In an interview, Scialom said "the police account is full of lies."
"There were tons of people around, and I was singled out for taking photographs," he said. "I'm not the only person they told not to take pictures - I'm the only one who didn't stop."
This morning in a post on the City Paper website, where Scialom is a contributor (he also has taken photos for the Baltimore Sun Media Group), outlined how he had been aggressively ordered out of the Summa venue, formerly known as the Coward Shoe.
"I continued to take photos and had stopped walking once I reached the sidewalk," he wrote. "I consciously said to myself that I am a safe, because I am on public property."
Scialom said he was suddenly and "violently" taken to the ground and arrested, which he said he was told was because he was a "smartass." He spent the night at Central Booking and said he was charged with "disobeying a lawful order," he wrote.
His City Paper account doesn't mention the police allegation that he tossed a bag of marijuana during booking.
According to police, an "illegal party" with 500 guests was taking place in the 300 block of N. Howard St. when police arrived to break it up. Police wrote that Scialom refused to leave and was in the vestibule of the front entrance "blocking the free flow of pedestrian traffic."
"Scialom had a camera and was standing in the middle of the moving crowd taking pictures and blocking other people from leaving," Officer Alexander Mangot wrote in a statement of probable cause. Mangot wrote that "because of Mr. Scialom's actions, people on the second level of the building started throwing debris on to the police officer and party goers who were trying to leave the area." It is not explained why Scialom taking pictures would cause people to throw things at police, who had broken up the event.
Police said Scialom then blocked a narrow sidewalk, and they said he was placed under arrest so they could clear the crowd. At Central Booking, police said, Scialom threw a ziplock bag with suspected marijuana over the booking window, in an apparent attempt to discard it.
Lt. Eric Kowalcyzk, a police spokesman, said the party was broken up because it was illegally charging a cover and operating as a "bottle club," a BYOB designation that requires a permit. He said an officer saw the large crowd and notified the vice unit.
"There's certain criteria you have to meet to be a bottle club," Kowalczyk said. He also confirmed that police seized $616 and the "cash box" from the party, which were submitted to evidence control.
The City Paper has previously written about the shutdown of other similar parties, and the murky regulatory issues related to so-called "DIY spaces."
In a letter to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Remington resident Hayden Barnes urged the city to come up with new regulations to allow such events to prosper, likening the situation to the city's early troubles with food trucks. He said the art spaces aren't concert halls, movie theaters, or art galleries but "a little bit of all of those."
"Baltimore is going to lose these art spaces, just like our food truck scene never got off the ground, and the young, affluent, entrepreneurial, money-spending, taxpaying young people that come with them," he wrote.
The Police Department remains locked in litigation with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and a Howard County man who said his photos were deleted by officers at the Preakness after he recorded them making an arrest. The department has since drafted new guidelines affirming the public's right to take photos, though the rules also say that the person recording may not "violate any section of any law, ordinance, code or criminal article" in doing so.
The ACLU declined to comment on Scialom's arrest.