Rikers seems an unlikely destination for perhaps the most important citizen journalist of the last year. But though the video Orta shot was shared around the world, he stayed right where he was, a young, working-class Latino man in Staten Island. Anyone in circumstances like those would be vulnerable to police harassment—and doubly so when you make it your business to watch and record the cops and their abuses …
Orta described police violence as being endemic to Staten Island, and in the summer of 2014, he began to document it. Of the videos Orta told me he shot, he posted a just one on his YouTube channel, on July 12, 2014. In it, a gang of white cops force a handcuffed black man into the pavement. As two officers hold the victim down, another officer systematically beats the man’s legs with his baton. The man is not seen resisting arrest.
“Y’all tough as hell with them sticks,” Orta can be heard saying while holding the camera. When a bystander complains, police slam him onto the pavement, then arrest him.
— “Nine Months After He Filmed Eric Garner’s Killing, the Cops Are Trying to Put Ramsey Orta Behind Bars,” Molly Crabapple for VICE