Republican National Convention coverage
It is getting to be very clear that St. Paul police are deliberately arresting people for exercising their First Amendment rights, whether it be protesting, documenting the protests or simply going about their business near the protests.
Even as three University of Kentucky journalists were released from jail on Wednesday, at least three other journalists, including a blogger from California, are still in custody, according to the ACLU, who is demanding investigations into the mass arrests.
St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington has defended his officers by insinuating that all the people arrested, including the multitude of journalists, were breaking the law.
“If a reporter is committing crimes while they’re under their credentials,” Harrington added, “I think they become regular citizens.”
However, a significant number of people arrested on felony charges – including the three UK journalists – have already had their cases dropped by the County Attorney’s Office, making it obvious that police are detaining people illegally – not to mention spraying them with pepper spray and tear gas – as a way to flaunt their power and get them off the streets.
“I think some of the police on the street have been very aggressive physically,” said Charles Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota. “The phrase is ‘spoiling for a fight.’”
The dispute over how police handled the protests will likely be played out in Ramsey County District Court over many months. Of 71 felony cases brought by the police this week to the county attorney’s office, 27 cases, or 38 percent, have been dismissed outright.
This year’s republican national convention appears to be following in the steps of the 2004 convention, which resulted in the City of New York dishing out $2 million in settlement fees after the ACLU protested against the numerous false arrests.
Meanwhile, charges against three Democracy Now! reporters have yet to be dropped, so please join the “Call to Action” on their behalf.
Check out the following three videos where the three Democracy Now! reporters discuss their arrests.
And as the three Democracy Now! reporters fight for their innocence, charges against AP photographer Matt Rourke were quickly dropped, prompting one journalism professor to point out the discrepancies in treatment between the old media like the Associated Press and the new media like Democracy Now!
That the Associated Press photographer is likely not to be charged and the three members of the independent press are may be a consequence of their actions or arrests, but also might show the vulnerability of journalists not backed by organizations large and powerful enough to stand up to government.
In the St. Petersburg Times editorial, Robert Dardenne, an associate professor at the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, pointed out that although the new media organizations do not have the legitamacy and money of the corporate media, they still serve an important function in the democratic process.
The advantages of an alternative and independent news media are that they are small, mobile, passionate and willing be in the streets; they can be fearless; they will get to things the larger, more corporate press may not. The independent and alternative press, including citizen journalists, complements the corporate press.
This is good for citizens and good for democracy. But the independents and alternatives don’t have the organizational protections of the traditional press, and some of them don’t have the legitimacy. This makes them prey to police and government officials who don’t like what they do, and this is an issue for all of us.
And with that being said, there is no telling how many independent photographers and bloggers are still in jail, whose only crime was trying to document the protests. After all, one didn’t even have to be participating or documenting the protests to be arrested, as one reader of this blog described in the following passage.
I originally spent the day checking thing’s out around the rnc, planning on going to take back labor day on harriet Island. I started heading from the capital, passing blocks upon blocks of police in riot gear. We got fed up and snuck around one of the blockades, came to shepard road, and the police let us through. Walking towards the bridge that connects shepard to harriet island, we hear explosions and screaming. Needless to say we turned around as people started running, along with several young teenagers that were just relaxing in the parks.
Tear gas and flash bang grenades are going off all around us. We start walking back towards where we came in, which is now blocked, and anyone that is trying to get passed is now getting threatened, and maced. Completely boxed in, no ability to leave or even approach officers, we take a seat in the park listening to the concert across the river. The officers soon set a perimeter around the park closing in, and announce that we are all being arrested. Sitting there with exposed tattoo’s, and converse all stars mind you. Profiling ensues.
I was arrested, spent 5 hours in custody, was ticketed for present at an unlawful assembley and refuses to leave. I have no reciept for my belongings, no cell phone, DL, money, ATM cards, and was dumped on the street. Empty pockets I ask a stranger for change to make a phone call…..