Charges Against Journalists at RNC Dropped; Questions Remain

Dandelion Salad

Date: September 19, 2008
Contact: Jen Howard, Free Press, 202 265-1490, x22 or 703 517-6273

Charges Against Journalists at RNC Dropped; Questions Remain | Free Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Local authorities in St. Paul announced today that they will not prosecute journalists who were arrested on misdemeanor charges during the Republican National Convention earlier this month.

“This is an important first step, but many questions remain,” said Nancy Doyle Brown from Twin Cities Media Alliance. “We still need answers about why and how journalists got swept up in these arrests in the first place. And more than anything else, we need to ensure that this never happens again. We’ll never know how many important stories never got told because their authors were behind bars, not in the streets.”

Nearly two dozen reporters were arrested during the four-day event, including Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and two of her producers, Associated Press reporters, student journalists, and local TV photographers, among others. Other journalists were pepper-sprayed, and reporters with I-Witness were held at gunpoint during a “pre-emptive” police raid aimed at disrupting protesters. The press release from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s office noted that the city’s attorney will use a “broad definition and verification to identify journalists who were caught up in mass arrests during the convention.”

“We’re pleased that the St. Paul authorities ultimately acted to uphold the rights of all journalists — including those citizens using blogs, cheap cameras and cell phones to report news as it happens,” said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, the national media reform organization. “Our task now is to ensure that our press remains free to report on the events, issues and stories that matter to our country, our communities, and our democracy.”

Less than three days after the initial arrests, more than 60,000 people across the country signed on to a letter from Free Press, demanding that Mayor Coleman and local authorities immediately “free all detained journalists and drop all charges against them.” These letters were delivered to St. Paul City Hall the day after the convention following a press conference that included local citizens and many of the journalists who had been arrested earlier in the week.

“The news from St. Paul City Hall is certainly welcome regarding the decision to drop charges against journalists who were arrested and cited during the RNC,” said Mike Bucsko, executive officer of the Minnesota Newspaper Guild Typographical Union, who spoke at the press conference. “However, it is essential the elected officials in St. Paul and Ramsey County examine the circumstances that led to the needless detention and harassment of journalists to ensure this type of indiscriminate behavior on the part of law enforcement does not happen again.”

Local advocates and independent journalists from KFAI Community Radio, National Lawyers Guild, Twin Cities Daily Planet, Twin Cities IndyMedia, Twin Cities Media Alliance and The Uptake were joined by national groups the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, The Newspaper Guild, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders, the Society for Professional Journalists and the Writers Guild of America, East, in condemning the unusually harsh treatment by city authorities.

Watch the press conference:


Why We Were Falsely Arrested By Amy Goodman

This is America. We don’t jail journalists here.

Free Press: Stop the Arrests of Journalists. Sign the Letter.

Democracy Now!’s Report on Their Arrests

Response to RNC Unrest Press Conf + Mass Arrest + Explosions

Amy Goodman Released After Illegal Arrest at RNC

Hot Day in St. Paul + Press Conference On Amy Goodman’s Arrest

RNC – St Paul-Minneapolis MN

2 thoughts on “Charges Against Journalists at RNC Dropped; Questions Remain

  1. Peace Marcher’s meet with force. That’s what should be reported. How many were injured, and by whom[since no ID’s, on the new Gabubu suits].
    Yes, perhaps a few bad apples, not police lines,
    it’s good police work that always solves crimes.

    I guess the new gabubu suits were too inciting to have police[officer’s] mingle within the crowd to prevent unlawful behavior[ littering, public dis-order].
    Sheriff, you “are” the responsible party, and you and the Dept. should be investigated for your, irresponsible, lacks-a-daisical actions, and the justifying of criminal over-reaction.
    The police need more money for what again ?
    The Law suits, U get it.
    U’s opinion.

  2. Thanks, Lo.
    I heard on one of the web stations I listen to [? throws up hands], that since the county prosecutor (that would’ve had to review all the felony PC Riot charges) has to commit most of her time to re-election, she was dropping them to misdemeanors and turning them over to the city prosecutor. so, hope that covers the journo’s that got caught up there, too.

    I wasn’t really impressed with Coleman’s assessment of what a “Tough Week” it was, turned into blaming it all on a few “bad apples(C)”.

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