Journalists Face Felony Charges After Arrests During Trump Inauguration Protests
Jan 26, 2017 01:19 PM EST
At least six media workers with the addition of another four been added to the list have been charged with felonies - facing up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted, after being arrested while covering the unrest around Donald Trump's inauguration.
After being caught up in the police action against demonstrators, a documentary producer, a live-streamer, a photojournalist and a freelance reporter were each charged with the most serious level of offense under Washington DC's law against rioting.
Journalists Evan Engel of Vocativ and Alex Rubinstein of RT America had also been arrested and charged with felonies while covering the same unrest on Friday morning. According to court filings, all six were arraigned in superior court on Saturday and released to await further hearings in February and March.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Carlos Lauria said late on Tuesday that charges against journalists who were covering the protests should be dropped, describing the charges are "clearly inappropriate" and that they are worried this "could send a chilling message" to journalists covering future protests, reported The New York Times.
The producer for the web documentary series Story of America Jack Keller said he was charged and detained for about 36 hours after being kettled by police at 12th and L streets on Friday morning and arrested despite explaining to the officers that he is just a journalist who was covering the demonstrations.
According to Keller who claimed that his cellphone has been kept by the authorities, the way they were treated was "an absolute travesty." Keller's editor Annabel Park also commented that the situation was frustrating, emphasizing that these (journalists) are the people who were documenting and observing.
Metropolitan police records showed that an independent journalist who was live-streaming the Friday protests, Matt Hopard was arrested at the same location as Engel, Rubinstein and Keller. He denied the charge against him, according to The Guardian.
Also arrested for the same reasons were independent photojournalist Shay Horse and freelance journalist / activist Aaron Cantu. Both deny wrongdoing.
In all, more than 200 people were arrested on Friday, after property was vandalized in the US capital in the hours around Trump's swearing-in as president. Police said that six officers suffered minor injuries.