Six Journalists Face Felony Charges After Covering Inauguration Riots
Six journalists have been arrested following their coverage of the charged demonstrations that occurred in Washington, D.C. on the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, as reported by the New York Times.
Said to be among 230 who were detained during the protests, the six journalists face “felony rioting” charges. Each, including Alexander Rubinstein of RT America; Evan Engel of Vocativ; Matthew Hopard, an independent journalist; Shay Horse, an independent photojournalist; Aaron Cantu, a freelance journalist who has written for the Washington Spectator; and Jack Keller, a Story of America producer, deny participating in any rioting.
Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department reportedly declined to provide information on what each of the journalists actually did to warrant criminal charges. Each of the journalists is said to face a prison term of 10 years and a fine of up to $25,000 if found guilty. In addition to the journalists, lawyers, medical personnel, and legal observers were also arrested in the roundup, said to have occurred at 12th and L Streets in Washington.
Ana Kasparian, with The Young Turks, stated that reports from police do not indicate precisely what the journalists are accused of and that the wording used on each of the reports concerning them “is exactly the same.” The host gave the opinion that if the journalists had truly been involved in violence or destruction of property that police reports would state intricate details.
Cenk Uygur, co-founder of the independent media organization, explained his perception of the view of Washington police: someone set fires and broke windows on inauguration day.
“That’s true,” the TYT host stated.
“You see, what we do in America is we find the person who actually did it and then we try them. We don’t just round up everybody and go ‘Windows were broken. I don’t know. They were there.’”
Uygur referred to police reports that state that demonstrators were “observed enticing a riot,” which he seemed surprised “is actually a thing now.” He went on to call the accusations “made up,” while pondering the mechanics of how one actually entices riots to occur.
Stating that it doesn’t matter what outlets the journalists work for, or who they are, be it The Blaze or Tomi Lahren, Ana Kasparian called the situation “unacceptable.”
“You need reporters on the ground to give accurate details,” Kasparian stated.
Cenk Uygur found the apparent position of the police in contrast with the reason the reporters were there, to cover a newsworthy event, including violence and damage.
“That’s why we were rolling on it,” Uygur voiced how one of the arrested journalists may have responded.
A spokesman with the Committee to Protect Journalists, Carlos Lauria, said that the arrests may “send a chilling message to journalists that cover future protests” and called the response by authorities “completely inappropriate and excessive.”
Pen America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel was said to have noted that the actions of the Washington police took place in a “climate fostered” by President Trump. Nossel expressed concern with the “speed, pace and ferocity” that authorities have clamped down on press and speech freedoms, possibly indicating that some of the journalist community’s “worst fears” about the new president might not be “so far-fetched.”
Cenk Uygur pondered if perhaps some law enforcement members have taken the rhetoric from President Trump as a signal that a “new era” has been entered. The TYT host pointed out that by not holding those who were responsible for damage in D.C. on inauguration day accountable, authorities are “encouraging lawlessness.”
Both Kasparian and Uygur were clear that it was the Metropolitan Washington Police, and not President Trump, who directed the response to the violence last Friday. However, each allowed for the possibility that Trump’s rhetoric has created an environment of increased hostility towards journalists on the part of some police.