More bad news. There were early reports that members of the media were held by the LAPD during the protests over the removal of the Echo Park Lake homeless encampment. It’s now clear that at least four reporters and an unknown number of legal observers were detained by the LAPD. Two reporters were actually taken to jail before being released. The journalists who were detained identified themselves as members of the press when they were taken into custody. Actually, it seems like that’s the reason they were taken into custody. The LA Times offered this account by reporter James Queally….
Eventually the two officers detaining him called over a sergeant, and Queally again said that he was a working reporter. The sergeant told him that it didn’t matter, Queally said.
“He was less than interested with the fact that I was press,” Queally said. “I said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this? We really doing this?’ And he said, ‘Yes, this is the policy tonight.’”
So the sergeant knew that Queally was a reporter, and stated that his detention was in line with the “policy” the LAPD was following that night. It would be really interesting to know who established this “policy”. Was it LAPD Chief Michel Moore? Was it Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, in whose district the police were operating? Was it Mayor Eric Garcetti? The LAPD’s actions were clearly restricting free speech, preventing the press from doing their job. We need to know who formulated this policy, which is clearly an effort to suppress the media.
It is interesting that two Councilmembers, Kevin De Leon and Mike Bonin, both criticized the LAPD’s detention of journalists. Nithya Raman posted a statement on Twitter decrying the use of force in ejecting the Echo Park homeless community, but didn’t mention the treatment of the press. I couldn’t find any other comments by Councilmembers on this issue.
A link to Saturday’s LA Times’ story is below. Apparently the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU have both come out with strong statements.
We shouldn’t let this slide. This week’s meeting of the LA Police Commission has been cancelled, but this needs to come up at the next meeting. When journalists who are clearly identified as journalists are detained by law enforcement without having committed a crime, it means the government is trying to shut the media down.