From the Indypendent, this tale of some harassment being claimed by an impromptu citizen journalist:
“Yeah, I knew what I was recording, but I didn’t think he was going to die.” This is how Ramsey Orta responds when I ask him what was going through his head when he shot the video of Eric Garner’s death. Orta tells me that just a week before, he had filmed a video of his friend getting beat up by the cops on the same Staten Island block where Garner was choked by Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
It has been 18 months since the world watched the scene unfold through Orta’s cell phone and just over a year since a grand jury declined to indict Officer Pantaleo, and still, Orta is not able to keep the incident in the past, telling me he does not regret filming, but wishes he hadn’t attached his name to it. Ever since filming the video recognized as a crucial exposition of police brutality,the police have targeted Orta in a long string of encounters, including five arrests last year.
Orta recognizes the police intimidation he has faced in Manhattan and Staten Island since 2014 as retaliation for filming the video. After Garner’s death, Orta started to experience police surveillance: flashlights shining through his window, cop cars following him in his neighborhood at all times of day and night, and family members being searched after leaving his house. This intimidation escalated into more blatant acts of harassment when his child’s mother was continuously questioned at her job, his house was raided, and Orta himself had several run-ins, a few he filmed, during which cops questioned him, claiming they believed he had a gun or that he fit the description of a suspect.
When I ask Orta about his arrests and their correlation with the video, he explains “the first arrest was the gun charge and it happened to be, I believe, the day after or the same day of the non-indictment of [Daniel] Pantaleo, and then the house-raid happened a couple months later when I was going back to court.”
Orta was arrested in September 2014 and sent to Rikers Island Prison, where he soon discovered more strange behavior that felt differently than when he had been there years before for other cases prior to Garner’s death. Hearing guards whisper and feeling watched, he became paranoid that prison personnel were trying to kill him, and he stopped eating food from the prison, surviving on candy bars and cookies for two months. His fears appeared justified when meatloaf from Rikers Island Prison tested positive with rat poison last April. Despite paying his bail, Orta was kept in prison, and even after having been released, he says he is still stalked regularly.