My colleagues Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar from Democracy Now! filed a federal lawsuit today against "the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments and officers, the municipalities, the Ramsey County Sheriff and unidentified Secret Service personnel," stemming from their assault at the Republican National Convention in 2008.
I was with Amy on the floor of the RNC when we received word that Nicole had been assaulted and arrested. She was pummeled by police batons as she shouted that she was a journalist. Her real crime was filming the protests. Nicole’s camera captured her arrest and assault by the officers.
NICOLE SALAZAR: Watch out! Watch out! Press!
POLICE OFFICER: Get out of here! Move!
NICOLE SALAZAR: Where are we supposed to go? Where are we supposed to go?
POLICE OFFICER: Get out of here!
NICOLE SALAZAR: Dude, I can’t see! Ow! Press! Press! Press!
POLICE OFFICER: Get down! Get down on your face! On your face!
NICOLE SALAZAR: I’m on my face!
POLICE OFFICER: Get down on your face!
NICOLE SALAZAR: Ow! Press! Press!
When Sharif tried to intervene and tell law enforcement she was a journalist, they assaulted and arrested him too. I took photos of the injuries Sharif sustained that day. Amy, who dashed from the floor of the RNC to try to get Sharif and Nicole released was then arrested herself.
“We shouldn’t have to get a record to put things on the record," said Amy today This is not only a violation of freedom of the press but a violation of the public’s right to know. When journalists are arrested, that has a chilling effect on the functioning of a democratic society.”
According to the press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is co-counsel in the case:
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. 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. 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,” said CCR attorney Anjana Samant. “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.”
“The protests on the streets outside the convention center are just as important to the democratic process as the official party proceedings inside,” said journalist and plaintiff Sharif Abdel Kouddous. “Journalists should not have to risk being arrested, brutalized or intimidated by the police in order to perform their duties, exercise their First Amendment rights and facilitate the rights of others to freedom of speech and assembly.”
“The video of my arrest and of Amy’s mobilized an overwhelming public response,” said journalist Nicole Salazar. “The public has both an interest and a right to know how law enforcement officials are acting on their behalf. We should ask ourselves what kind of accountability exists when there is no coverage of police brutality and intimidation."