Reporters Arrested, Detained During Occupy Oakland Protest; Newspaper Guild Wants Meeting w/ Quan

Police officers surround protesters Occupy Oakland protesters Jan 28. (KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images)
On Saturday, when police and Occupy Oakland demonstrators squared off in clashes that resulted in the arrests of at least 400 people, a handful of journalists found themselves either detained or arrested themselves after getting caught in a police “kettle.”

Here are just some of the dramatic tweets from reporters during the confrontations:

Vivian Ho, SF Chronicle

-They put me in zip-ties but after I talked to an OPD officer about it, he got his boss and they let me go.

-They had me walk the line to see if I could find @KristinHanes. Couldn’t find her

Kristin Hanes, KGO Radio

-Earlier today, I told a riot officer I was a reporter and could I get out. He said, “No. You shouldn’t have been there.

-Arresting officer: “Do you have any knives, guns, weapons?” Me: “No, I’m a reporter.” Officer: “That might be dangerous of them all.

-When we walked past mobile processing center, officer said, “I’ve never put a reporter in there and didn’t want to.”

John C. Osborn, East Bay Express

-Ppl running back of ymca. Im getting arrested

Yael Chanoff, SF Bay Guardian

-No cops have badge numbers showing and they are refusing to tell protesters

-I was at YMCA, kettled for an hour before being ziptied around 7:15pm. got out 3pm from Santa Rita, among very first released

Susie Cagle, independent graphic journalist

-OPD kettled #OO, ppl tried to escape, OPD charged and grabbed my arm, threw me so hard it was numb for 5 minutes.

-When I said “I’m press I’m press” my arresting officer admonished me & told me to cooperate w the arrest.

Gavin Aronsen Mother Jones

-Cops are closing in. I showed my press pass and tried to get out. Just pointed back toward the crowd. Now I’m in a corner w/2 other journos.

Gavin Aronsen of Mother Jones wrote up an account of his arrest for the magazine’s web site:

As soon as it became clear that I would be kettled with the protesters, I displayed my press credentials to a line of officers and asked where to stand to avoid arrest. In past protests, the technique always proved successful. But this time, no officer said a word. One pointed back in the direction of the protesters, refusing to let me leave. Another issued a notice that everyone in the area was under arrest.

I wound up in a back corner of the space between the YMCA and a neighboring building, where I met Vivian Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle and Kristin Hanes of KGO Radio. After it became clear that we would probably have to wait for hours there as police arrested hundreds of people packed tightly in front of us, we maneuvered our way to the front of the kettle to display our press credentials once more.

When Hanes displayed hers, an officer shook his head. “That’s not an Oakland pass,” he told her. “You’re getting arrested.” (She had a press pass issued by San Francisco, but not Oakland, police.) Another officer rejected my credentials, and I began interviewing soon-to-be-arrested protesters standing nearby. About five minutes later, an officer grabbed my arm and zip-tied me. Around the same time, Ho was also apprehended.*

As I waited in line to be processed and transported to jail, Ho approached me with an officer who had released her from custody. The two explained to my arresting officer that I was with the media. “Oh, he’s with the media?” the officer replied, although I had already repeatedly told him as much and my credentials had been plainly visible all night. He appeared ready to release me, until a nearby officer piped in, without explanation: “He’s getting arrested.”

Later, before I was loaded on a police bus with 48 protesters, another officer told a protester in front of me that he should have left after police issued dispersal orders. When I told the officer that I had attempted to do just that, he asked, “How long have you been out here today?” “Since about 1:30.” Flashing a smile and telling me that he didn’t care I was a reporter, he replied, “We’ve been issuing dispersal orders all day.” Kettled protesters claimed that no orders were issued until they had no means of escape, but in either case the orders were difficult to hear over the commotion of the crowd. Read the full article here

Aronsen spent about an hour in jail before a call to police from his editor prompted his release. “You probably shouldn’t have been in here to begin with,” he reports an OPD sergeant telling him.

Susie Cagle, who was arrested and detained for 15 hours during the Occupy Oakland general strike in early November, but managed to avoid jail this time, posts this exchange with OPD spokesperson Johnna Watson about Saturday’s encounters between the media and police:

Hi Johnna, Please give me a call when you can — I have several questions for the OPD regarding yesterday’s Occupy actions, including handling of the press. My understanding is that a reporter from the SF Bay Guardian was held in custody overnight. I was detained as well. Thanks. -Susie Cagle

Hi Susie, The Oakland Police Departments Internal Affairs Division is investigating this incident. Therefore I can not discuss your email questions. -Johnna Watson

The Newspaper Guild, which represents 34,000 media workers, is unhappy about this treatment of reporters. Guild president Bernie Lunzer sent this letter today to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Police Chief Howard Jordan:

Dear Mayor Quan and Chief Jordan:

We write to object, once again, to unacceptable interference with journalists covering Occupy Oakland and resulting law enforcement actions.

On Saturday, at least five credentialed journalists were detained and/ or arrested while covering Occupy Oakland protests. They included representatives of the San Francisco Chronicle, KGO radio news, East Bay Express, Mother Jones magazine and the SF Bay Guardian. Despite repeatedly identifying themselves as members of the media, two were jailed.

Some wore official Oakland Police Department press credentials; others wore credentials from the San Francisco Police Department or from their assigning publications, a customary practice among working journalists.

Although several journalists were released quickly on the scene, others were held for long periods of time, making it impossible for them to do their jobs. Numerous reports from the scene document officers ignoring reporters presenting their press credentials and admonishing them for not following orders to disperse.

This despite the OPD’s own guidelines, which state, “Even after a dispersal order has been given, clearly identified media shall be permitted to carry out their professional duties in any area where arrests are being made unless their presence would unduly interfere with the enforcement action.”

Earlier this fall, many of us individually and collectively contacted the city to ask for a response to reports that plainly credentialed journalists had been detained and in some cases jailed covering Occupy protests. In another incident, police grabbed at a camera belonging to an Oakland Tribune photojournalist, breaking off the flash and throwing it the ground.

Freedom of the press is key to our democracy and must be vigorously defended. Arrests and other police interference with working journalists cannot be tolerated.

We therefore request a meeting with city and police department leaders to discuss training, monitoring and other remedies ensure that police no longer detain, harass, or otherwise block journalists from doing their jobs by reporting breaking news in the city of Oakland.

If you have questions about this request, please let us know.

Sincerely,

Bernie Lunzer President, The Newspaper Guild-CWA

Susie Cagle, one of the detained journalists mentioned above, posted audio of her encounter with police. At the end of the clip you can hear an officer ask her to identify something in her purse.

“Your cell phone right here?” he says.

“That’s my audio recorder for my professional radio recording, which I do as a professional journalist.”

“Is it on?”

“Yes it is on.”

“All right, I’m gonna turn it off to sa-”

Silence.

  • http://twitter.com/MLKstudios Matthew L Kees

    Ms. Quan just doesn’t seem to get how important her decisions are regarding her handling of Occupy. Not just to the people of Oakland, but with #OWS in her midst, she is setting an example for emerging Democracies all over the world. If she doesn’t WAKE UP soon, and stop following the advice of her ego maniacal police force, she will need to take full responsibility for a total friggin MESS. One that will be copied in other parts of the world.

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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