NPPA Calls for Investigation Into Arrests of Journalists in St. Louis

NPPA Calls for Investigation Into Arrests of Journalists in St. Louis

In the last two months, at least 10 journalists have been arrested while covering protests in St. Louis, leading to multiple press advocacy groups to call on Mayor Lyda Krewson to launch an investigation into the conduct of the police department.

The National Press Photographers Association Committee to Protect Journalists drafted the letter to the Mayor Krewson, asking that an investigation into individual officer conduct be initiated and that increased training on the rights of press and how to properly deal with their presence be considered. The letter was prompted after NPPA member Daniel Shular and Journalist Amina Ali were arrested on October 3, during which Shular did not hear an order to disperse, but was still arrested after showing his credential and was never told he was under arrest or Mirandized, according to his lawyer. They were detained for 18 hours. The NPPA report says that journalists among the approximately 10 arrested in the past two months have alleged that they were "pepper-sprayed, cursed at, and treated with excessive force by police officers. Journalists were arrested even if they identified themselves and showed press credentials."

Of course, if found to be true, the allegations would represent serious violations of the First Amendment. The letter was cosigned by numerous press advocacy groups and was also sent to the Chief of Police and city counselor. You can read the full letter here.

[via NPPA]

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9 Comments

jonas y's picture

Oh my...

jonas y's picture

Not so fast, I would like to see more evidence. Again, I am shocked by this but I will wait for more info.

Anonymous's picture

I'm in St. Louis and have been covering protests here for several years. That being said, I haven't covered the protests related to this story. Every protest I've covered there has been an order to disperse, even when people claim there wasn't. In a recent protest at a local mall a live streamer was caught in a lie when earlier in stream she stated a couple of times "there goes the dispersal order" and then when the police started arresting protesters she started to yell and claim they never gave the order. I'm not saying that Daniel Shular is lying. It's very possible he didn't hear the order.

The problem the police face is that they don't know who is with the media and who isn't. Anyone with a fake press credential can claim they're with the media, when they're really not. Yes, everyone has the right to be out there to document what is happening, but at some point, right or wrong, when the police give a dispersal order, it's time to pack it in.

The press should have the ability to stay out, after a dispersal order, to document what is happening. The example of this is Baltimore after the Freddie Gray incident. The first night everyone was kicked off the street, including the press. The media fought back and the Baltimore PD issued special credentials to legitimate media outlets. St. Louis PD needs to do the same.

Anonymous's picture

Credentials have nothing to do with the military, so I don't what you're talking about with that remark.

Police departments in several major cities issue credentials to media outlets. Those credentials can give journalists access into situations that the public wouldn't be allowed to go - for example allowing a photojournalist closer access to a fire or to get past police tape. And in the case of Baltimore, continued access to a protest scene after the dispersal order.

Robert Nurse's picture

I don't think the police departments (PDs) issues credentials. The same way PDs don't issue drivers licenses. Some higher authority issues the credentials and they must be presented to PDs upon request.

Anonymous's picture

While I'm not going to research every police department in the country, I'll just spotlight two of the largest (and will provide links).

The New York PD grants credentials through the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information, located at Police Headquarters (per their website).

https://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/media/newsroom/media-credentials.page

The LAPD grants press passes through their media relations department.

http://www.lapdonline.org/inside_the_lapd/content_basic_view/2026

Anonymous's picture

The media doesn't have special rights above the public. They're not above the law. In general if something is happening in public, on the street for example, no one needs a credential to witness, photograph or record it.

Some departments issue credentials to the working press to give them access to situations the general public doesn't have access to. For example behind a police line or so they can get closer to a fire.

In the case of some protests where protesters are breaking the law it becomes necessary for the police to clear the scene and what has happened here in St. Louis is that announcements are made, typically for about 20+ minutes, telling everyone, including media to clear the street. I agree that working press should have access. But the problem is that there are protesters who claim to be part of the media, just because they think they are gaining some kind of special access or to avoid being arrested. It's these kinds of situations that the police need to be able to identify working press from protesters.

Related to this story, some of the 10 who were arrested weren't really working media, but several were protesters who were live streaming, in addition to yelling at the police.

Anonymous's picture

They do when the protest becomes unlawful. What you're not being told with this story is that throughout these protests police are being physically assaulted. About 30 officers have been injured, some seriously as a result of protesters throwing bricks, rocks, bottles of urine, bottles of frozen water and pepper spraying the police.

The impression being given is that people just started protesting and immediately the police shut it down by arresting people. The protests typically go on for several hours, starting in the day, and at night become violent, not only with injured officers but also property damage to businesses.

Anonymous's picture

We can argue about this all day long, and to be honest with you, this is my last comment. I know all I care to about you based on your "nazi scum" comment and against my better judgement tried to explain this in further detail, that there is more to the story.

This is coming from several years of experience, including photographing the Ferguson protests - there are two groups at these protests, the peaceful protesters who are not looking for trouble. They want to be on the street and be heard. No one, including the police, has a problem with them. The second group is hellbent on causing destruction and if at all possible, injuring a cop. A couple of years ago two cops were shot at a protest in Ferguson. That is not a constitutional right.

A lot of the peaceful protests leave at a certain time, especially when this other element starts to join in. These trouble makers are the ones who are making giving the protest and the protesters a bad name.

While people have a right to protest, they don't have a right to injure a cop and the police have every right to defend themselves and arrest those who are breaking the law.