NEW YORK — A high school journalist who was arrested inside the 2004 Republican National Convention along with a group of protesters has filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department detective who arrested him.
Benjamin Traslavina, who recently graduated from Malverne High School, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in March 2005. Traslavina attended the convention in September 2004 as part of the Junior Statesman Foundation, an organization that involves students in politics. He was also hoping he could get photos and write a story about the convention for the Malverne High School student newspaper The Mule, where he was the editor in chief.
Traslavina was on the convention floor watching a speech by President Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card, when a group of protesters began yelling. Traslavina said he moved toward them to take a picture for the paper, but was arrested along with the protesters by the Secret Service.
Traslavina said he told the arresting officer he was just a student, but he was ignored. The executive director of the Junior Statesman Program, Richard Prosser, said he also told police that Traslavina was not part of the protest group, but he was ignored as well.
Traslavina said his film was taken from the camera, and he was taken to jail with the rest of the protesters. According to the lawsuit, he was held for more than 30 hours and charged with inciting a riot, assault and disorderly conduct. His charges were eventually dropped in December.
Laura Postiglione, spokeswoman for the New York City legal department, said she could not comment on the case since it is pending.
Traslavina’s lawyer, Daniel Perez, said the lawsuit’s aim is to compensate Traslavina for the First Amendment violation, as well as his “deprivation of liberty.”
“He was absolutely terrified by the police who arrested him,” Perez said. “It’s one thing when a demonstrator consciously decides to go onto the floor of Madison Square Garden to speak, it’s something entirely different when a high school student goes onto the floor to learn about the democratic process and gets arrested.”
The experience has not been a completely bad one for Traslavina — he plans on going to Fordhman University in the fall to study communications, he said.
“It’s been pivotal,” Traslavina said. “It’s certainly changed my life and given me direction into what I want to do with my life.”
–By Rebecca McNulty