A St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalist was arrested while shooting video of a demonstration against health care reform Thursday.
Jake Wagman was charged with “interference”, meaning he was documenting the other arrests police were making at the time.
“A pair of officers began instructing everyone to leave. I asked, ‘I’m not sure why I have to go.’ (We were, after all, on public property – a school.)
“One of the officers responded, ‘You can either leave now or come with me to jail.’
Besides Wagman, five people were arrested with charges ranging from assault to disturbing the peace.
Democratic Congressman Russ Carhahan had called a forum on aging inside a middle school gym, which drew several hundred people, including some who favored President Barack Obama’s health care reform proposals and some who opposed his plans.
Because of the overflow of people inside the gym, many who arrived with signs were kept outside.
Two of those arrested were Brian Matthews, 34, and Javonne Spitz, 51, both who support health care reform.
Spitz “admitted” she ended up getting tossed out of the forum because she was taking photos. Then she walked outside where she said a man assaulted her, trying to break her camera.
When she reported this to police, they did nothing, so she took a picture of the cop and his badge, which “made them all very angry.”
Spitz admitted that she had been tossed out because she had been taking photographs. On her way out, a man “grabbed my arm and my camera and tried to break my camera.” She said a policeman did nothing when she told him about the incident. She said she took a picture of the officer and his badge, and “that made them all very angry.”
She was also pepper sprayed by cops.
The officer “told me I couldn’t take a picture of them. He may have thought that was interference, I don’t. That was a matter of opinion,” she said.
Here is a breakdown of the arrests, according to police:
– Two men were arrested for misdemeanor assault for allegedly punching, pushing and holding a man who was handing out American flags and fliers outside the school.
– One woman was arrested for misdemeanor assault and destruction of property for allegedly pushing another woman who was recording the events on her cell phone, then grabbing the phone and breaking it.
– One woman was arrested for interference and resisting arrest. One officer used pepper spray on the woman, police said, when she did not comply with officers’ demands. That woman “just would not leave,” when asked by officers to back away from the scuffles, said spokesman Rick Eckhard said. She also passively resisted when an officer tried to handcuff her, he said.
– One man was arrested for peace disturbance when he entered a circle of people who had gathered near the pepper-sprayed woman and refused to comply with officers’ demands to leave.
– Post-Dispatch reporter Jake Wagman also was arrested for allegedly interfering.