Democracy Now! journalists sue police, Secret Service over ‘violent’ RNC arrests

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, May 6, 2010 14:13 EDT
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For what she called her “violent” arrest outside the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC), journalist and author Amy Goodman has joined with The Center for Constitutional Rights in filing a federal lawsuit against police and the Secret Service, issuing a stark challenge to policies governing their treatment of protesters.

Goodman said her producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar were injured as police took them to the ground, with Salazar’s nose bloodied and Kouddous’s arm severely twisted. The whole time, they were demanding police not place them under arrest, shouting “Press! Press!” and waiving their media badges.

Instead, Goodman told RAW STORY during a Thursday conference call that unnamed Secret Service agents “ripped the credentials from around our necks” and police removed the batteries from their cameras, “which makes it very clear what they were after.”

The YouTube video of Goodman’s arrest quickly became the most popular clip on the site in the 2008 RNC’s first days.

“I think that’s what freed us after a number of hours,” she told reporters.

Goodman v. St. Paul seeks compensation and an injunction against law enforcement’s unjustified encroachment on First Amendment rights, including freedom of the press and the independence of the media,” The Center for Constitutional Rights summarized in an advisory.

“Attorneys say the government cannot limit journalists’ right to cover matters of public concern by requiring that they present a particular perspective; for instance, the government cannot require journalists to “embed” with state authorities,” they continued. “Goodman further asserts that the government cannot, in the name of security, limit the flow of information by acting unwarrantedly against journalists who report on speech protected by the First Amendment, such as dissent, and the public acts of law enforcement.”

“The media are the eyes and ears of the American people—that is why there are laws to protect them,” CCR attorney Anjana Samant added. “Law enforcement and Secret Service agents are not exempt from those laws in their dealings with un-embedded journalists who are documenting peaceful protestors or law enforcement’s use of force and violence against those protestors [sic].”

“While most protesters demonstrated peacefully, some engaged in property damage, slashing car tires, throwing bottles, tipping trash bins and breaking windows of cars and buildings,” Democracy Now! reported shortly after the arrests. “One of the broken windows came in the building that houses Saint Paul Neighborhood Network—that’s SPNN —where Democracy Now! is broadcasting from this week.

“But police used harsh tactics, including chemical irritants, to disperse everyone, even those protesters who remained peaceful. Officers in riot gear fired teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets in a series of standoffs around the downtown St. Paul area.”

Police arrested 283 people during the RNC’s opening day and had in the weeks prior been engaging in targeted harassment of activists. Over 800 arrests were made during the convention. The New York Times noted that an estimated 50 of those detained were journalists.

Said Goodman: “Democracy is a messy thing and it’s our job to capture it all. We shouldn’t have to get a record to put things on the record.”

This video of Amy Goodman’s arrest is from outside the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, published to YouTube on Sept. 1, 2008.

This video of Nicole Salazar’s arrest is from outside the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, published to YouTube on Sept. 2, 2008.

This video of the 2008 RNC protests was captured by protesters on the scene and features some narration by a reporter from Minnesota citizen journalism outlet The Uptake, published Sept. 3, 2008.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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