Los Angeles police officers arrested freelance journalist Vishal Singh and freelance videographer Sean Beckner-Carmitchel after declaring the Black Lives Matter protests in central Los Angeles unlawful. Singh said on Twitter that he and Beckner-Carmitchel were targeted for filming the protests.
The reporters were clearly identified as media workers when they were arrested.
Both reporters were charged with unlawful assembly after a failure to disperse and are expected to appear in court in March 2021. According to media reports, “failure to disperse” is a misdemeanor that can be penalized with up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1000.
More arrests in New York
At a post-election protest in New York on 4 November, police detained several journalists for not carrying the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) press ID, the NWU claimed. The press ID that allows journalists to access official events or cross police lines more easily is granted and administered by the NYPD, but police officers also hold extensive rights to confiscate an individual's press ID.
On social media other journalists denounced threats and detentions during the protests.
Police also set up a roadblock and refused to let anyone pass, including the press secretary of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, according to media reports.
Arrests and attacks against journalists covering protests across the United States have risen in recent months and authorities are blocking bills to protect media workers.
NWU President Larry Goldbetter said: “The National Writers Union objects in the strongest terms to the arrests of journalists covering post-election demonstrations from LA to NYC, especially freelancers without the NYPD press credentials. It is another reason why we are pressing our campaigning to remove press passes from the jurisdiction of the NYPD and transferred to NWU.”
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Journalists play an essential role in documenting the events at protests, including police violence and misconduct by protestors. This role is compromised when police start targeting and arresting journalists arbitrarily. We urgently call on US police across the country to stop detaining journalists and demand the departments in Los Angeles and New York drop all charges against media workers.”