Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Democracy Now! Staff Arrested

This was just an astonishing story to wake up to this morning. After wading through the news reports, it appears that there was some mischief at these protests -- thrown objects, vandalism and the like. However, several reports are saying that the police were way out of line, gassing, pepper-spraying, and arresting even peaceful protesters.

According to Amy Goodman's interview, made just as she had been released from jail, she'd heard that two members of her staff had been arrested as they were filming the police as they cracked down on the protesters. She went to find out why they were arrested, and was told to back off -- and she didn't.

Generally, if you don't follow a police officer's instructions, you are at risk for arrest, even if you think those instructions are unreasonable. I'm aware of that, having a husband in law enforcement, but most law-abiding middle-class people may not be. If you refuse to listen, they'll slap the cuffs on you, and you can sort it out in court later. We drilled our kids in two rules: Do whatever a cop tells you and never piss off a judge.

But, as Amy points out, we're talking about the press here -- the freedom of which is so vital to our democracy. I'm really concerned about why reporters filming the protests would be arrested. These are professionals, and just doing their jobs. Amy's press credentials were plainly visible; the cops should have let her through.

These charges will almost certainly be dropped -- the actions of these reporters are going to look very different in court than they did to cops whose minds were on crowd control and adrenaline was pumping.

I couldn't find a way to embed the video of her post-arrest interview which tells the story, but here's the more dramatic video of her arrest, which is all over the web this morning:

Here's an update: Producers Nicole Salazar and Sharif Abdel Kouddous were arrested while trying to get out of the way. Before that, they were just doing their jobs, filming what was going on. Several other journalists were arrested as well, including one who yelled "It's a Republican paper, for Chrissakes!" Press passes were consfiscated. Amy, in her upset at what had happened to her producers, took what she should have known was a risk. But, the arrest of Nicole and Sharif is legitimate cause for some real outrage -- they were backing away, not challenging the officers at all.

I'd like to know what the cops' orders were. This thing needs to be investigated.

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