Journalists recount police abuse during Republican National Convention
Republican National Convention coverage
Photo by Danny Ghitis
More than 800 people were arrested outside the Republican National Convention last week, including dozens of photojournalists and videographers.
And although police released most of the photojournalists last week, they refused to return their cameras until this week.
However, John P. Wise, a MyFox national editor who had his press credential stripped from him before he was carted away to jail Thursday, outsmarted police by placing his SD and CF cards inside his sock, where they remained undetected, according to his first-person account of the arrest.
Personally, I didn’t like how we were herded onto the bridge in such a deceitful manner. Officers on foot and on bikes — wearing gas masks — were verbally forceful in their orders for us to disperse in a particular direction. Most, including my colleage Alice Kalthoff and me, followed those instructions, but after taking a few steps, other officers on horseback told us to go in yet another direction. So if we were to follow the instructions of one group, we’d need to disobey those of another. It was a very confusing situation.
And then, once order was restored and 300 of us were sitting on the bridge, and officers began to talk to us in a more orderly fashion, our small group of five or six journalists was told repeatedly that since we were all properly credentialed, we’ll probably be let go without any trouble.
Alice was released, but I had my credential removed and was loaded onto a bus, a silk necktie the only visible difference between my fellow miscreants and me.
Stephen Maturen, an assistant photo editor at the Minnesota Daily newspaper, described how he was pepper sprayed by police, even after displaying his press credentials.
Police were getting a little testy with protesters, telling everyone to back away. There was one girl who started to run after being told to back off. She was followed by an officer, knocked to the ground, and sprayed point blank in the face with pepper spray. Then officer walked back to his unit. There was no arrest made or any further action taken, just a girl crumpled on the ground.
“After seeing something similar happen to another protester behind the Sears building, I decided it was time to get out of there. No one seemed safe. I raised up my arms, camera in one hand, media credential in the other, and yelled ‘I am media, I work for the Minnesota Daily. What should I do to get out of here?”
“An officer ran up and told me several times to ‘Back the fuck up!’ I asked him where I should go and he pointed south with his baton. He told me to, ‘Get the fuck out of here,’ so I turned and started running. As I started running he unloaded a can of pepper spray into the right side of my face, completely blinding me in one eye and partially blinding me in the left. I stumbled away as fast as I could not sure what would happen if I collapsed to the ground – which is what I felt like doing.
Danny Ghitis, a freelance photojournalist from New York City, was one of several journalists who was handcuffed on the bridge. He was released without going to jail. Here is his account:
The bombs and tear gas were exploding all around me and cops were screaming at everyone to go south toward the bridge. I yelled to one cop “I’m media! Where do I go?!” but he pointed his rubber bullet gun at me and yelled “Go to the fucking bridge!” It was utter chaos. The police were throwing gas and bombs in between the bridge and people being told to go to the bridge. Poor aim? Amid the mayhem I managed to click away a few frames, but I couldn’t help but notice what was going on. They had surrounded the area and were corralling what seemed like 300 people, including a large number of media and legal observers, onto the bridge for a mass arrest.
The Society of Professional Journalists is urging St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to drop all charges against all arrested journalists. At last count, 19 journalists were arrested, not including freelancers and independent journalists.
Also, two Minneapolis city council members are calling for an investigation into the excessive arrests last week.