LAPD Turns to Media Suppression

Photo by Brian Feinzimer for LAist.

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. 

Reporters, Legal Observers Cry Foul after Being Caught Up in LAPD’s Mass Arrests at Echo Park Protest

Losing Local News

LAist Graphic

You may have already heard that the local news web site LAist has been shut down. This was actually part of a larger move by the new owner of DNAinfo, which included snuffing out sister sites in New York, Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco.

The link below is to a piece written by Julia Wick, former editor-in-chief at LAist. I’ll let her give you the gory details. But as sad as it is to see LAist go, there’s a much larger problem here than the loss of a single web site.

We’re losing local news coverage. The LA Times and the Daily News have suffered massive cutbacks, which means they’re doing much less coverage of city and county politics. The few community newspapers left are struggling to stay alive. Radio is increasingly controlled by large corporations who aren’t interested in covering local news. And forget about TV. They’re so caught up in crime videos and celebrity gossip they hardly pay attention to what’s going on at City Hall or in our schools.

This is a serious problem, because we’re less and less aware of what’s going on around us. Voter turnout has been declining for decades, I think in part because people don’t even know what the issues are. Decreasing public awareness of issues that impact our lives makes it easier for politicians and other power brokers to bend and break the law.

And don’t tell me the internet is going to solve the problem. Sure, it’s true we now have access to more news than ever before, but social media allows people to focus only on the news they want to hear. People visit the web sites that feed their appetites, requiring less and less involvement with the world around them. The people at City Hall like that. It means they don’t have to worry about public scrutiny. It leaves them free to serve the interests that fund their campaigns.

I don’t know what the solution is, but if we don’t reverse this trend, we’re going to be in worse trouble than we are now. And we’re already in a lot of trouble.

Everyone Should Fear What Happened to the Gothamist Sites