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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reporting On Police Activities Is Under Fire -Updated

interview with Amy Goodman about her arrest

"...I was put into a cell, which I later measured to be about nine by eleven paces. And I was in there with seventeen other—seventeen protesters who had been also arrested that day. Some of them were still soaked with, you know, pepper spray, and their skin was burning, and they were asking for a nurse. But in the time that I was in there with them, they didn’t get to see anybody.
-Nicole Salazar, Producer for DemocracyNow.org

While a lot of attention went towards the arrest of ABC News Producer Asa Eslocker as he was working on a story in Denver at the Democratic National Convention last week, the reporting on what has been happening at the Republican National Convetion has been disturbingly incomplete and isn't capturing how police have been using the cover of stopping anarchists to also intimidate those who would report or record cases police misconduct.

It started with the arrest and searches of several police misconduct activists and videographers prior to the convention along with several reports of police seizing video and photographic equipment from independent journalists there to monitor police activities at the convention. Under cover of raids claimed to target protesters the police suspected of planning illegal activities the police also conducted raids and detentions against members of a New York-based group of videographers who monitor police conduct and who were responsible for overturning hundreds of arrests that occurred during the 2004 RNC. That group, I-Witness, reported in their press release that their host's home was raided and that other members of their team were detained searched elsewhere without charges.

Then the founders of St. Paul-based Communities United Against Police Brutality were also rounded up in a separate raid and while being detained they claim that their garage, where they store files and evidence related to police brutality cases they've covered, was burglarized. However, while the garage contained several valuable pieces of equipment, nothing was stolen. But, disturbingly enough, their files were left in disarray as if they were hurriedly searched, which would seem to suggest that it was the police who opportunistically broke into their property without a warrant.

Then, on Monday, police used the cover of the protests to further intimidate reporters by detaining several journalists and intentionally assaulting others who had clearly identified themselves as credentialed members of the press. The first journalist detained appears to be an Associated Press photographer who was rounded up with several protesters and detained for several hours despite clearing being identified as a journalist. (See the photograph that got AP photographer Matthew Rourke arrested)

Then there were the arrests of two Democracy Now! producers who reportedly were injured while being thrown against a wall by police officers, one injured his elbow and the other sustained head injuries during the violent arrests. This prompted Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman to rush to the scene to determine what happened, only to be arrested and manhandled by police herself when she started asking questions. (video of the arrest of producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar will be posted at the Democracy Now! website)

There were also other reported cases of assaults on journalists and third-party legal observers who were monitoring the protests on Monday, including a Seattle journalist, Brendan Kiley from the independent weekly paper The Stranger, who was doused with an entire canister of pepper spray after identifying himself as a member of the press to the police.

The end result of these actions against the press by police is chilling, it shows that police have no regard for the rights of the press and since they are not concerned about violating the rights of a credentialed member of the press, what is there to stop them from harming independent journalists and activists that monitor for police misconduct as citizens?

...and as I predicted previously, intimidating the press into keeping quiet about police abuses was likely the intent all along.

Update: It appears as though a Seattle-based group of videographers who document protests and the policing of protests have also been detained. According to a statement made by a spokesman from that group, some were apparently detained at the same location that Amy Goodman was arrested and still remain jailed.

Update: According to a press release from DemocracyNow.org, St. Paul city attorney has decided to press charges against Amy Goodman and prosecutors are still deciding whether or not to charge two DN producers with felonies associated with their arrests.

Update: Two University of Kentucky journalism students and their advisor have also been arrested and charged with felony counts according to the University of Kentucky's newspaper The Kentucky Kernel. The article also shows a photograph, taken by arrested AP photographer Rourke, of one of the students being peppersprayed prior to arrest.

Update: The St. Paul police department raided the offices of I-Witness Video for a second time yesterday after a reportedly "mistaken claim" by an "undercover officer" that hostages were being held in their building. This caused the building owner to evict the group of videographers from the building and interfered with their ability to document police activities in response to protests at the RNC.

Originally published 9/2/08 11:28, Updated 9/4/08 09:17

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's as if the police have forgotten about that whole freedom of assembly thing. They want you to assemble online or in freedom cages, heaven forbid you actually take to the streets and walk around for a bit.

Packratt said...

You know... I was thinking about doing a piece about how people from other democratic nations must view what's going on here in the US.

After all, what would you or I think if we read news articles about a foreign country that told people they were only free when they were put in cages?

Take care, and thanks for the comment!

 
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