Free at Last

Blogger Josh Wolf has earned status as a living First Amendment martyr by cooling his sideburns in a federal prison for the past six months. His "crime": He refuses to give authorities the unedited version of the video he shot during an anarchist rally in the Mission District in July 2005, so a judge has held him in contempt of court.

Meanwhile, Gabe Meyers, a featured player in the portion of the video Wolf posted on www.joshwolf.net, can finally exhale — his own legal ordeal quietly ended earlier this month.

Cops cuffed Meyers the night of the march on charges of inciting a crowd, rioting, and resisting arrest. The bust occurred after a squad car rolled up on a splinter group of protesters near 22nd and Mission streets. Police accused Meyers of throwing a large Styrofoam sign under the wheels to force the vehicle to stop.

Meyers insists he dropped the sign in fear and ran as the car — traveling 30 mph, he estimates — barreled toward the crowd. After a short foot chase, an officer tackled Meyers and held him on the ground for several minutes, then placed him in a chokehold. Protesters yelled at the cop to release Meyers; authorities claimed the activist's gasped pleas for help were an attempt to foment unrest among bystanders.

Meyers spent 10 days behind bars before he could post bail, and, over the next 18 months, made some three dozen court appearances. He refused to plead guilty to lesser charges, confident that eyewitness accounts, photos snapped by onlookers, and Wolf's video — which shows the cop pinning Meyers like a rodeo calf — would prove his innocence.

Two weeks ago, county prosecutors blinked, asking a Superior Court judge to toss the case against Meyers. (Neither the District Attorney's Office nor the SFPD responded to requests for comment.) "They knew the charges were utterly ridiculous," the 29-year-old Oakland resident says. "They just wanted to drag this thing out."

During the protracted legal struggle, Meyers missed so much time from his job working with the disabled that he's now unemployed. But he's angrier over Wolf's incarceration. The feds say they want to view the blogger's raw protest footage in hopes of identifying who injured a cop that night. Meyers sees another motive: "They're trying to limit freedom of the press."

 
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