This is so unacceptable!
Earlier this week, it was reported that two journalists, Evan Engel of Vocativ and Alex Rubinstein of RT America, had been arrested while covering the unrest that went down amid Donald Trump‘s inauguration. Now, it’s being said an additional four journalists have been booked for being in the presence of the protesters — including documentary filmmaker Jack Keller, photojournalist Shay Horse, live-streamer Matt Hopard, and freelance reporter Aaron Cant├â┬║!
How awful. It’s said the six media professionals have been charged with the most serious level of offense thanks to Washington D.C.’s strict law against rioting. Reportedly, the group faces up to 10 years behind bars and a $25K fine just because they got caught up in the police’s action against demonstrators.
Although the six were released following their arraignments on Saturday, it’s believed the group will still have to attend hearings in February and March. Oof.
Carlos Lauria of the Committee to Protect Journalists defended in a statement:
“These charges are clearly inappropriate, and we are concerned that they could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests. We call on authorities in Washington to drop these charges immediately.”
Keller, the documentary filmmaker mentioned (above), says he was charged and detained for around 36 hours. DAYUM. Supposedly, the Story Of America producer was booked by the cops, even AFTER he had informed them that he was just there to cover the demonstrations as a journalist. NOT OKAY!
“The way we were treated was an absolute travesty.”
Preach! Jack’s editor Annabel Park added:
“It is a maddening and frustrating situation. These are people who were there observing and documenting.”
We can only imagine how frustrating this whole thing must be! Hopard, Horse, and Cant├â┬║ were also all booked for covering the riots at 12th and L streets — and have ALL denied the charges against them.
Apparently, 200+ people were booked on Friday after property was vandalized in the nation’s capital. To make matters worse, six police officers suffered minor injuries due to the demonstrations. We doubt this point will help the journalists’ cases.
Thankfully, the National Lawyers’ Guild has since accused the city’s metropolitan police of targeting people based on location alone AND have called the cops out for using teargas and other weapons. Eek!
And the Guild may have a point, since none of the police reports for the accused specify WHAT EXACTLY the journalists did wrong. In fact, the reports contain almost identical language which allege “numerous crimes were occurring in police presence.” Hmmm, very inneresting.
While the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. is standing by their cops, they are still reviewing the evidence as they shared:
“Based on the facts and circumstances, we determined that probable cause existed to support the filing of felony rioting charges. As in all of our cases, we are always willing to consider additional information that people bring forward.”
We guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens when the hearings begin next month. Good luck, you guys!