A reporter with a video camera was detained by security guards of a republican politician in Alaska after the reporter asked him a controversial question.
Security guards of Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller grabbed Tony Hopfinger, editor of the Alaska Dispatch, and handcuffed him, detaining him against his will in a hallway for 30 minutes.
Hopfinger said they also confiscated his camera and deleted footage from the scuffle.
The security guards told Hopfinger he was under arrest and threatened other reporters with arrest if they dared ask the detained reporter any questions.
Despite the threats, a reporter from the Alaska Daily News asked Hopfinger what had happened.
Hopfinger, who was holding a small video camera, said he was attempting to draw out a statement from Miller on why he was disciplined by the Fairbanks North Star Borough when Miller worked there as a part-time attorney. After Miller walked away, Hopfinger said, he was surrounded by Miller supporters and security guards and felt threatened, so he pushed one of them away.
Miller is accusing Hopfinger of assault on his website under the headline, “Liberal blogger ‘loses it at town hall meeting’.”
Even though Joe had spent nearly an hour freely answering questions from those in attendance, the blogger chased Miller to the exit after the event concluded in an attempt to create and then record a ‘confrontation’ with the candidate. While Miller attempted to calmly exit the facility, the blogger physically assaulted another individual and made threatening gestures and movements towards the candidate.
Anchorage police arrived on the scene and ordered the security guards to release Hopfinger.
The security guards deny confiscating Hopfinger’s camera and deleting his footage.
But they did try to prevent other videographers from videotaping the incident, leading me to believe that they did delete the footage.
One of the guards grabbed Hopfinger’s video camera. Later, Hopfinger said that when he got the camera back, the segment covering the span of the arrest was missing. An Anchorage police officer offered to take the camera into custody and have it examined in the crime lab to investigate whether evidence had been destroyed, but Hopfinger declined. He said he needed the camera and the remaining video for his work.
The guard who grabbed the camera said Hopfinger had dropped it in the scuffle and denied erasing anything. The guard wouldn’t give his name.
While Hopfinger was still in handcuffs, the guards attempted to prevent other reporters from talking to him and threatened them too with arrest for trespass. A Daily News reporter interviewed Hopfinger anyway. No other reporters were arrested, though a few shoving matches and chest bumps ensued as the guards attempted to cordon off Hopfinger and block photographs and videos from being taken of the bizarre school scene.
The guards accused Hopfinger of trespassing, despite the fact that the event was held in a public school and the general public was invited to attend.
The 3 p.m. town hall was billed by the Miller campaign as a chance for voters to “hear Joe Miller speak for himself.” It was hardly a private gathering. In a Facebook message, the campaign urged Miller supporters to bring their “friends, colleagues, family, acquaintances, neighbors.” And continuing what has become its anti-media theme, the campaign added, “Don’t let the media skew your views.”
But security guards say that despite the event being open to the public, it was still a “private event.”
William Fulton from Dropzone Security Services said Hopfinger should have known from the “Joe Miller for Senate” signs outside Central Junior High School that the town hall meeting — to which Miller invited citizens on the internet sites Facebook and Twitter — was a private event.
“They leased it for a private event,” said Fulton. “It wasn’t a public place.” That, he said, gave him the legal authority to tell Hopfinger to leave, then grab him and handcuff him when he didn’t do as told.
Hopfinger said he had no idea who Fulton was. The security guard was in a black suit, not a uniform, Hopfinger said, and refused to identify himself.
“He throws me up against the wall,” Hopfinger said. “He handcuffs me,” and even then Fulton refused to identify himself.
The district attorney’s office will decide whether to charge Hopfinger.