The Man Who Filmed The Eric Garner Video Is Behind Bars

Orta has been arrested multiple times since July 17, 2014, when he filmed Daniel Pantaleo, a New York City police officer, putting Garner in a prohibited chokehold during an arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner, 43, died shortly after. His last words ― “I can’t breathe” ― became a rallying cry for an ascendant Black Lives Matter movement. 

Orta has filed one lawsuit and plans to file another, alleging that the NYPD has arrested him several times in retaliation for filming the Garner video. Another lawsuit claims that Rikers Island guards put rat poison in Orta’s food. All told, Orta is seeking $30 million in damages from the city.

This summer, 40 documentary filmmakers, including eight Oscar winners, wrote an open letter calling on the Justice Department to investigate the “harassment” and “targeting” of citizen journalists who film police violence.

The letter notes that like Orta, the people who filmed the arrests or deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and Freddie Gray were all later arrested themselves.

The letter also says that the work of Orta and his fellow citizen journalists has “made it impossible for white Americans to continue ignoring a truth our leaders have spent centuries obfuscating: black lives matter.”

But in July, Orta, saying he was “tired of fighting,” pled guilty to charges of selling heroin and other drugs to an undercover police officer, and to a charge of possessing an illegal handgun. 

The judge allowed Orta to live in Las Vegas until his sentencing Monday. There, he recently sat down for an interview with The Huffington Post.

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