A reporter for a local news organization was among those arrested in Cleveland Saturday night during protests against the verdict in the Michael Brelo manslaughter trial.
Brelo, a Cleveland police officer, was acquitted earlier in the day after a four-week bench trial. He was one of a number of police officers who killed two unarmed suspects with a barrage of 137 bullets after a high speed chase in 2012.
Kris Wernowsky, the crime editor for the Northeast Ohio Media Group, said he was arrested while livestreaming the protest after police demanded to see his press pass, which he had forgotten to bring with him.
Wernowsky was one of several people arrested after police kettled a group inside an alley, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Police said protesters were blocking sidewalks and alleyways and began ordering them to move back.
Police pushed a group of people that included Wernowksy into an alley between West Sixth and West Ninth streets in the Warehouse District. Police then blocked off both ends of the alley and began arresting people.
Wernowsky published a firsthand account of his arrest after he was released from police custody:
It was shortly after 9:30 p.m . when officers in riot gear corralled us into an alley. With their shields in hand, then chanted “Move back.”
I realized we were pinned in, and I didn’t have my press pass.
Dumb move. The dumbest move.
As I tried to make my way through the line with another group of reporters, I knew then that I was going to jail.
“A business card isn’t going to cut it,” the officer told me.
It didn’t matter. I didn’t have business cards either.
They put zip ties around my wrists and sat me on a sidewalk in an adjoining alley.
It’s unclear what charges Wernowsky was arrested for or why police would release him after seeing his press pass if he had committed a crime. Press passes are often carried by reporters as proof they are employed by news media organizations, but carry no legal significance.
The Cleveland Police Department tweeted that there were multiple people arrested in the area for unlawful congregation and failure to disperse.
In total, police said they arrested 71 people during protests yesterday and last night. That figure includes two legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild. Police say many of the protesters were arrested for violent acts, but it’s not clear how many.
Earlier today, the police department published a tweet, saying “A reminder to media reporting from the field during demonstrations to have media credentials on hand,” suggesting they will continue to arrest journalists who do not carry press passes with them.