The morning after Republicans wrapped up their party convention in St. Paul, the Minnesota Newspaper Guild joined other local and national media organizations in denouncing the arrest of journalists covering protests outside the four-day event.
The Guild was part of a group delivering to public authorities a petition with more than 50,000 signatures calling for all charges against journalists covering the convention to be dropped.
Mike Bucsko, executive officer of the union that represents more than 450 Twin Cities journalists, called police tactics heavy handed and urged St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and others to conduct a thorough “post-mortem” investigation into how – and why – so many journalists were detained.
“We’re appalled,” Bucsko said in a press conference outside City Hall. “It’s really had a chilling effect.”
One Minnesota Newspaper Guild member, Pioneer Press photographer Ben Garvin, was among the 818 arrested during RNC-related events. Nancy Doyle Brown of the Twin Cities Media Alliance reported that several journalists were “arrested, subjected to raids, pepper sprayed and more” while trying to cover the protests.
Police officials have said journalists were ordered to disperse along with crowds of protesters, and those who did not follow orders were arrested like everyone else. But Bucsko and others emphasized that democracy relies on the press being able to its job free from fear of government intervention. And that means full access to action “inside and outside” the convention.
“I’d hate to think that journalists were being targeted, but I think it behooves the public officials here in Ramsey County and the city of St. Paul to examine the circumstances under which journalists were caught up and arrested without any discrimination, or perhaps with discrimination, based on doing their jobs,” Bucsko said.
“Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman, arrested during a Labor Day protest and charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice, joined in delivering the petitions to Coleman’s office.
Goodman said police “grabbed me the police line, they twisted my hands behind my back, they forcibly put on the rigid plastic handcuffs that dig into my wrist, they put me up against the wall and pushed me down.
“I repeatedly said, ‘We are accredited journalists. Look, you can see our credentials.’ Whereupon, secret service came over and ripped my credentials off my neck.”
Goodman demanded that the charges against “Democracy Now!” producers and all other journalists be dropped. “Put simply, we should be able to put things on the record without getting a record,” she said.
Michael Moore edits The Union Advocate, the official publication of the St. Paul Regional Federation of Labor.