A journalist's confrontation with the cops

Covering a fairly routine sidewalk protest near SU turns contentious.
Editor's Note: Photojournalist Keith Edelman was assigned to cover a protest near campus for The NewsHouse. The following is his account of a dispute with two Syracuse police officers.

Two hundred yards from Newhouse 3 — a building with the First Amendment plastered across its glass façade — I was nearly arrested by the Syracuse Police Department while covering a story.

I was there because of Jim DeFerio, a recognizable figure on campus. The anti-homosexuality protestor and Syracuse resident had been standing on the grass by Waverly Avenue since 12:25 p.m. He held his sign “Homosexuality is sin, Christ can set you free!” for nearly four hours without much fanfare.

Keith Edelman - Photojournalist for TheNewsHouse.com

I’m no stranger to his frequent appearances near area college campuses. I first ran into him while covering a similar event at SUNY Oswego. I knew his story, and I knew what he wanted.

By the time I was assigned the story around 4 p.m., fewer than two dozen students had gathered around DeFerio. Three students waved large posters to Waverly traffic in protest. Others scrawled opposing messages with markers on notebook paper.

The gathering was small but vocal. A male student said DeFerio looked attractive. Things suddenly got heated as the two battled ideologies with faces just inches apart. DeFerio said he contacted Syracuse Police Capt. Joe Sweeney. DeFerio claimed the student sexually harassed him.

Syracuse Police arrived soon. Officers J. Baldwin and K. Carney immediately acted to disperse the crowd, giving students three minutes to disperse, citing the city ordinance for “causing a public disturbance.”

Most of the onlookers left. I stood on the sidewalk as Carney and Baldwin held their post. Carney suddenly turned to me as I put down my camera after taking a picture of DeFerio.

“What are you doing?” she said. “I thought made myself clear.”

I was stunned but stayed on my toes. I explained that I was covering the event as a journalist with The NewsHouse. Didn’t matter, she said. I was in violation of local law if I stayed there.

I refused. It was a public sidewalk. I was doing my job. I wasn’t protesting or spitting or throwing condoms at DeFerio — all of which happened.

Next thing I know Baldwin had me by the arm. I resisted and went to move my camera to the other shoulder. Carney said, “If that arm hits me, we have you for assaulting a police officer.”

As Baldwin pushed me against the patrol car, I asked to see the ordinance in his blue pamphlet. He handed it to me, and I read it out loud to him. I questioned the vaguely worded paragraph.

Then things shifted back. All I wanted was DeFerio’s name, I said, and I’ll be gone (not entirely true, but I was under pressure). To my surprise, Baldwin gets it for me.

As fast as it happened, it was over. I interviewed Baldwin for five minutes about how police handle protests, after he had me pinned against a car.

I went back to work, finished gathering names and talking with the university’s Department of Public Safety officers about private and public property. When I was assigned the event, I knew I would probably end up writing a story. Putting my name in it wasn’t part of the plan.

Maria Salatino holds a sign in protest of Jim DeFerio on the corner of Waverly and University avenues Tuesday afternoon. (Photo: Keith Edelman)

How is she insulting Jesus?

How is she insulting Jesus? WTF are u talking about?


I didn't realize that had happened to you Keith! I was there for much of the hubbub and it did get kind of crazy. Good for you man, you worked it out.

Oh please!

Are you kidding me? How can you even compare this man to MLKJ or JFK? The real "offense" is what is written on the man's sign: "Homosexuality is sin". And she wasn't calling jesus a "nut".

Keith Edelman's story about the cops

Good for you!!! You may not know that in some states it has become illegal to photograph a police officer at all.


I think that that poster the girl is holding is very offensive. Here she is saying that Jesus loves everyone, yet she deliberately insults him. It doesn't matter what she is trying to prove, the fact that she holds such language is wrong and offensive. No one would do that to Martin Luther King or JFK, then why would they do that to Jesus. That's totoally stupid!

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