Attacks on Media and Protesters at Demonstrations Across the United States
[Updated] 7:42 P.M. on July 10th, to include threats to arrest the press in Baton Rouge and fallout from Minnesota protests.
MINNEAPOLIS (NSP) – Protests have again spread across the land. Large marches and demonstrations have caused quite a stir in Minnesota as well following the inexcusable murder of Philando Castile by St. Anthony Police.
Police forces nationwide do not seem to have learned much since the eyes of the world descended upon Ferguson and police brutality in the United States.
Images of camouflage clad police marching in step equipped with military gear and weapons usually bring heat on a department. Despite the public backlash, tactics for dealing with civil disturbances have not changed in any significant way.
Independent reporters very easily identifiable as Unicorn Riot were targeted by pepper-spray then immediately hit by a flash-bang or concussion grenade (and nearly hit by several more). This “less lethal” assault occurred apparently to veil the actions of officers a few feet away who were blocking a truck full of children from leaving the protest. The truck, which was being driven explicitly for the purpose of removing the children from potentially being tear gassed, was then pepper-sprayed.
Incident occurs around 2:08:00 in the video below.
Immediately after this unprovoked attacked, Unicorn Riot reporter Niko Georgiades said “our camera man is injured… they were aiming right at us.” The camera man later recovered and nobly carried on the hard work of providing embedded coverage to around 5,000 viewers.
The chemical irritants had to be wiped off of the gear used by Unicorn Riot and melted some of it to the point of it being inoperable.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) July 10, 2016
At a later impromptu march and around 3:30 A.M. another member of Unicorn Riot was targeted. Lorenzo Serna was kettled by police while adorned with identification and as was clear from the live broadcast, tried to identify himself as a reporter. Despite this effort, Serna was arrested.
If there was any doubt as to whether or not the motivation of the police was to conceal their actions, that is erased by the fact that during the protest police trained their strobing flashlights on cameras. This is common during demonstrations and usually provides tactical cover for actions the police do not wish to broadcast.
A couple days before these attacks on journalists documenting protest and police actions, similar censorship of the press happened on the streets of Rochester, New York.
Two African-American journalists reporting on a police brutality protest for ABC affiliate WHAM were arrested, one of which in the middle of a live broadcast.
Welp, that was interesting. Cuffed by RPD while cover protest in downtown ROC. Was never told I wasn’t supposed to be on sidewalk –
— Carlet Cleare (@ccleare) July 9, 2016
WHAM issued a statement about the detention of their reporters –
“A group of reporters, including some from other media organizations, was standing in the street recording a woman who was loudly voicing her concerns. Police approached and arrested the woman. The group of reporters then moved to the sidewalk and continued reporting live via Facebook. Without warning, 13WHAM reporters Carlet Cleare and Justin Carter were handcuffed by officers and led away. Carlet and Justin were the only African American journalists in the group.
We do thank RPD for quickly recognizing that this was an inappropriate way to handle the situation and 13WHAM appreciates the public apology issued by both Chief Michael Ciminelli and Mayor Lovely Warren. We encourage further dialogue with law enforcement to better identify reporters in the field to avoid a situation like this.”
Baton Rouge police effectively kettled journalists reporting from a protest on Sunday evening. The police reportedly threatened the Daily Beast and other reporters that stepping out of a 10 foot zone will end with arrest and the same to any journalists without credentials.
Police are currently telling me I’m not press. Trying to explain I report for @thedailybeast telling me I don’t have a right to report
— Zack Kopplin (@ZackKopplin) July 11, 2016
It’s worth asking; will our local journalists be apologized to for how they were treated as in Rochester? When will police forces learn to respect the First Amendment rights of not only protesters but also journalists?
Follow Unicorn Riot for dedicated, live coverage of the on-going protests.