Mass Arrest of Journalists at RNC & Why We Were Falsely Arrested

September 6th, 2008 - by admin

The HeFestUs Project & Amy Goodman / Democracy Now – 2008-09-06 20:58:42

Mass Arrest of Journalists at RNC
HeFestUs Project

(September 5, 2008) — I didn’t get to watch much of John McCain’s speech last night, I was too busy watching my colleagues get shot at and arrested along with dozens of other media professionals from organizations around the world.

I’m not talking about our crew currently in South Ossetia, this was one of my network’s crews in St. Paul covering the RNC.

I wasn’t the only one shocked to see the scene unfold on one of the many monitors on my desk, a co-worker walking by saw the screen and asked me what was blowing up in the Middle East. When I told her it was our crew in St. Paul she sat down next to me and we both watched the events unfold in horror.

The fact of the matter is what happened last night could have happened in the Middle East or a former Soviet Republic. Our news crew was being deliberately fired at with pepper pellets, rubber bullets and stun grenades from American police officers.

St. Paul isn’t a war zone where journalists get fired upon and lose their lives because a camera over-the-shoulder looks like an RPG launcher from the distance, this was a properly accredited network news team, wearing credentials and a vest with the words “PRESS” in big fat bold letters on their chest getting fired upon in an American city.

The crew (a photographer, soundman and producer) was on a city street sidewalk (perfectly legal) filming the protesters marching down the street. The police confronted the protesters and started firing tear gas, pepper pellets and stun grenades at them.

The large crowd dispersed into a neighboring parking lot and the media followed them.

A police officer in full riot gear comes charging at the crew thrusting his baton towards the chest of the producer. The producer identifies herself as press and throws up the credentials she’s wearing around her neck.

“I don’t give a fuck who you are, get the fuck out of here,” the officer shouted, pushing her. Other cops run up with their guns pointed and start pushing the press into the crowd of protesters.

This was the scene the entire night.

The media would follow the protesters and the police would point their weapons at them and fire directly towards them. At one point in the evening an officer runs up to a group of cameramen filming and drops a flash grenade in the middle of them and runs away. The grenade went off in a bright flash and bang, slightly injuring a few of the photographers.

The entire evening journalists were pushed, shoved, intimidated, shot at, abused and finally arrested.

The officers corralled the group of some 300 protesters, along with some 50 working press, onto a bridge and sealed it off from both directions—forming a line of police in full riot gear on each side with weapons drawn.

The cops started shouting at everyone to sit down and put their hands up, saying that they were to be arrested.

The media professionals did what they have always done in this situation, they filed out of the crowd to the edge and continued taking their pictures.

The police became more irate and started to throw flash grenades onto the bridge. At that point you can hear the journalists start talking among themselves.

“I think they mean us to,” said one reporter.

“You got to be fucking kidding me,” said another in response.

“Bullshit,” said a soundman.

The press started shouting at the police identifying who they were.

The police continued their threats, finally saying that they would come in using force if they didn’t sit down.

Journalists started to sit down, still recording the scene, all getting on the phone to report in what was happening.

I heard the photographer over the camera’s microphone in a shaky voice explaining the situation to the newsroom. He sounds scared and confused.

“Yah they’re going to arrest us all… including the press,” he says to the person on the phone.

You can tell that the person on the other end of the conversation can’t believe it.

“We told them we’re press, they don’t care,” the conversation continued.

A Japanese crew was still standing; one of them was carrying a ladder used to see over crowds to get a better angle.

The cops threaten to bring him down with force, calling the ladder a weapon.

The Japanese crew looks scared, they all scream “Press, press!” at the police.

More scared voices among the media, pan to the protesters, and then the feed went black.

My colleagues last night had every reason to be scared.

1:41 in, you can see part of what I am talking about.

For the first time in a long time my career made me feel physically sick to my stomach—this is coming from a journalist who worked the Iraq beat during the peak of beheading season.

I was trying to describe why I felt this way to a friend over the phone and it dawned on me.

This is America, not a police state. We expect this behavior from other places in the world, but not the USA.

Talking to more veteran co-workers, they can’t even remember when the police got this violent with the media in the US. During the massive WTO protest in the 90s, journalists were allowed to stand with the police line to do their jobs.

Someone made a good point, when the dogs and hoses were released on the civil rights marchers we were able to stand our ground and film that too.

We just don’t do things like this in America, we have laws, multiple laws against this.

After being detained for some time, our crew was released without any charges. They reported back that they were going to be charged with felonious intent. At the end of the day the laws came through, but at too high of a price, it came at the cost of preventing us from doing our job.

This just isn’t a Republican issue, a producer with ABC News was arrested at the DNC in Denver for standing on a public sidewalk. He was actually formally charged after being pushed into the street by a sheriff’s deputy.

And this isn’t a case of someone being careless like the reporter from Democracy Now who walked past a police line.

This was the working media doing their job in a lawful manner being prevented from showing the truth.

In journalism school we called that a “chilling effect.”

• Scroll to bottom to read viewers comments on this report.

Hephaestus is the Greek god of fire, art and the forge. The HeFustUs Project is :a new political journal/redefining liberal political thought/with fire

Why We Were Falsely Arrested
Amy Goodman / Information

ST. PAUL, Minn. (September 4, 2008) — Government crackdowns on journalists are a true threat to democracy. As the Republican National Convention meets in St. Paul, Minn., this week, police are systematically targeting journalists. I was arrested with my two colleagues, “Democracy Now!” producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, while reporting on the first day of the RNC. I have been wrongly charged with a misdemeanor. My co-workers, who were simply reporting, may be charged with felony riot.

The Democratic and Republican national conventions have become very expensive and protracted acts of political theater, essentially four-day-long advertisements for the major presidential candidates. Outside the fences, they have become major gatherings for grass-roots movements – for people to come, amidst the banners, bunting, flags and confetti, to express the rights enumerated in the Constitution’s First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Behind all the patriotic hyperbole that accompanies the conventions, and the thousands of journalists and media workers who arrive to cover the staged events, there are serious violations of the basic right of freedom of the press. Here on the streets of St. Paul, the press is free to report on the official proceedings of the RNC, but not to report on the police violence and mass arrests directed at those who have come to petition their government, to protest.

It was Labor Day, and there was an anti-war march, with a huge turnout, with local families, students, veterans and people from around the country gathered to oppose the war. The protesters greatly outnumbered the Republican delegates.

There was a positive, festive feeling, coupled with a growing anxiety about the course that Hurricane Gustav was taking, and whether New Orleans would be devastated anew. Later in the day, there was a splinter march. The police–clad in full body armor, with helmets, face shields, batons and canisters of pepper spray–charged. They forced marchers, onlookers and working journalists into a nearby parking lot, then surrounded the people and began handcuffing them.

Nicole was videotaping. Her tape of her own violent arrest is chilling. Police in riot gear charged her, yelling, “Get down on your face.” You hear her voice, clearly and repeatedly announcing “Press! Press! Where are we supposed to go?” She was trapped between parked cars. The camera drops to the pavement amidst Nicole’s screams of pain. Her face was smashed into the pavement, and she was bleeding from the nose, with the heavy officer with a boot or knee on her back. Another officer was pulling on her leg. Sharif was thrown up against the wall and kicked in the chest, and he was bleeding from his arm.

I was at the Xcel Center on the convention floor, interviewing delegates. I had just made it to the Minnesota delegation when I got a call on my cell phone with news that Sharif and Nicole were being bloody arrested, in every sense. Filmmaker Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films and I raced on foot to the scene. Out of breath, we arrived at the parking lot. I went up to the line of riot police and asked to speak to a commanding officer, saying that they had arrested accredited journalists.

Within seconds, they grabbed me, pulled me behind the police line and forcibly twisted my arms behind my back and handcuffed me, the rigid plastic cuffs digging into my wrists. I saw Sharif, his arm bloody, his credentials hanging from his neck. I repeated we were accredited journalists, whereupon a Secret Service agent came over and ripped my convention credential from my neck. I was taken to the St. Paul police garage where cages were set up for protesters. I was charged with obstruction of a peace officer. Nicole and Sharif were taken to jail, facing riot charges.

The attack on and arrest of me and the “Democracy Now!” producers was not an isolated event. A video group called I-Witness Video was raided two days earlier. Another video documentary group, the Glass Bead Collective, was detained, with its computers and video cameras confiscated. On Wednesday, I-Witness Video was again raided, forced out of its office location. When I asked St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington how reporters are to operate in this atmosphere, he suggested, “By embedding reporters in our mobile field force.”

On Monday night, hours after we were arrested, after much public outcry, Nicole, Sharif and I were released. That was our Labor Day. It’s all in a day’s work.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America.

© 2008 Amy Goodman

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Comments on “Mass Arrest of Journalists at RNC”

• Duliece Melton on Sep 5th, 2008 at 2:29 pm
I am speechless. It has finally come down to this.. us and them…sickening. The msm, however WILL NOT expose this criminal behavior!

• Shannon on Sep 5th, 2008 at 3:29 pm
First of all, why is the question not being asked as to why these protesters were being arrested, bombed and fired at in the first place? It’s not against the law to protest. It’s a right. So why is it not questioned as to why they were being abused?

Why is it only a concern to the press when they are the ones being abused as well? You let our country become a police state. You didn’t care when they said they were going to tap our phones and read our emails because you weren’t a terrorist. You didn’t care when they were firing at anti-war protesters because you weren’t a protester. How could you be so stupid as to not expect that eventually they were going to come after you?

• matt on Sep 5th, 2008 at 4:04 pm
this is military law being imposed upon the public and it is subtly showing itself more and more. We are not in a police state, we are in a military state. A state of constant warfare and we are the combatants.

• Rachael from Rhode Island on Sep 5th, 2008 at 4:15 pm
The media should start taking Ron Paul seriously now. He’s the only politician out there who KNOWS that this is the end of the Republic and he is hell bent on trying to save it through non-violent means.

• Sandra on Sep 5th, 2008 at 4:30 pm
This is what we have been trying to wake people up too. The America we grew up with is gone. The 38 executive orders bush signed did away with the Constitution. Welcome, to Fascism a new century. Peace

• Power of the Pen on Sep 5th, 2008 at 5:39 pm
@Shannon… I think that’s what the folks on this site are trying to do, put everything out there.

• Shaze on Sep 5th, 2008 at 7:25 pm
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

• Chris Taylor Jr on Sep 5th, 2008 at 8:43 pm
I think the time for a nonviolent reaction is quickly ending.

Why did these 350 people not VIOLENTLY defy the police? Not violently as in hurting people but violently as in with force — i.e., say we do not recognize your authority here. You will obey us.

I mean they are NOT going to kill you. That would be far too public in such a large crowd. Just say no. What are they going to do? seriously? I assure you there is no way in hell there were 350 police officers there?

In this game as long as the RESOLVE is in place Numbers rule. Numbers win. Walk up to the police enmass and state together. We revoke your authority. You will get out of our way or we will remove you by force. Compliance is mandatory. Resistance is Futile.

This would require extreme coordination to make sure no BOZO’s did anything stupid like hit a cop or anything like that.

Whether they deserve it or not they ARE just doing what they think is their job (though it does not take a genius to realize your orders are unconstitutional)

People and Police need to learn their word is not the word of GOD. We do not have to OBEY simply because they say. WE are in charge. They work for us.

• Colorblind Justice_on Sep 6th, 2008 at 11:01 am
Jounalists must rise up with other Constitutionalists to hold PEACE Officers accountable in the same manner that American citizens are held accountable. Unless the unbiased truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is reported to those in America who can read, this sovereign nation’s Constitutional republic will be doomed for self-destruction.
If we ever lose the First Amendment, that what the Second one’s for.

• Mizar5_on Sep 6th, 2008 at 11:16 am
Shannon is so right! Now that journalists are getting treated like the rest, wow, this certainly does this become important!! Now, hopefully it doesn’t become ‘all about them.’

• Pepper_on Sep 6th, 2008 at 11:40 am
Chris Taylor Jr, tell that to the Kent state students in the 70’s that were murdered before our very eyes and that ended the last era of peaceful demonstrations against our gov.
This is way more serious and even Ron Paul supporters do not even know the big agenda as its currently unfolding. We don’t even know who the real players are in this drama that is unfolding.

There is a conspiracy so vast and so pervasive that it crosses party lines, national boundaries, and political leanings. This is the most serious assault against our and other nations civil liberties that we have ever seen in 250 years. The poster above is right……. we did it by not literally standing up and stopping it when it first started.

We added to it again when we reelected Bush and cheney in 2004, and found out how pervasive the TREASON was when the 2006 congress under dem control continued with the agenda as if there had been no change in party control.
That is when I knew I had more research to do. If you want to know what this is all about in one reading, I suggest you spend the $9.98 on to buy Zbig Brszinski’s book “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperative”!. ITS A WORKING BLUE PRINT FOR WORLD DOMINATION.

It ends up explaining everything and why Ron Paul was marginalized by the press….. its global in its scope and more dangerous than we had imagined. The key to achieving this domination according to Zbig is to end a democratic republic that is inimical to world supremacy by America. That is exactly what we are seeing and I think Ron knows what is going on, but its so horrific, no one would believe it and call him a conspiracy nut.


THIS IS THE DEFINITION OF GLOBAL FASCISM….. It’s Hitler’s dream realized without firing a shot. It took 70 years but its finally here and what is truly amazing is the role Israel is playing in its implementation and creation.
I don’t have room here for all of the pieces, but I intend to write it up and present it either here or at OPED, depends on who wants it.

• Pepper on Sep 6th, 2008 at 11:46 am
I forgot to mention that due to the vast international movement toward this global fascist government, that there is nothing we are going to do that will make them stop this on their own. They are going forward, they want a nuclear war, and they will have it.

The only way to stop it is to sabotage it as soon and in every way we can. I have written this same message to various embassies and international emailing groups all over the world to try and wake them up and the more exposure and TRUTH WE CAN GET OUT THERE, THE LESS LIKELY THIS PLAN WILL WORK.

If anyone else has any ideas of serious proactive action that is real, please share so we can all contribute. WAR HAS BEEN DE CLARED AGAINST THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND ITS REPUBLIC AND WE BEST PREPARE TO FIGHT IT WHATEVER THAT TAKES.