‘This Is My Job’: Journalist Faces Jail Time After Being Arrested While Covering Black Lives Matter Protest
The trial began Tuesday for a journalist who was arrested while covering a Black Lives Matter protest in May.
Iowa reporter Andrea Sahouri, who covers public safety for the Des Moines Register, and her then-boyfriend Spenser Robnett were pepper-sprayed and arrested while Sahouri covered the May 31 protests, the Washington Post reported. They face charges of failure to disperse and interfere with official acts.
If convicted, Sahouri and Robnett could face up to 30 days in jail.
Prosecutor Brecklyn Carey said the case was about whether Sahouri and Robnett failed to comply with orders to disperse and interfered with an arrest, the Post reported. “People will try to get your attention on something else,” Carey told the jury, according to the report. “It is your job to keep your eye on the ball.”
The former U.S. attorney representing Sahouri and Robnett, Nicholas A. Klinefeldt, told the jury Sahouri was “assaulted” when she was pepper-sprayed and “arrested while doing her job.”
Amnesty International, more than 250 people affiliated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism – where Sahouri graduated from – and several other major groups have called on Polk County Attorney John Sarcone to drop the charges against Sahouri.
University of North Carolina law professor David Ardia told the Washington Post that although journalists are not given special privileges to remain in nonpublic places under the First Amendment, prosecutors have typically declined to press charges against reporters covering protests.
Body camera footage from Sahouri’s arrest was captured by Des Moines Police Sgt. Natale Chiodo and played at the trial Tuesday. It showed the reporter asking Officer Luke Wilson why she was being arrested. “I’m just doing my job,” Sahouri said in the bodycam footage, according to the Associated Press (AP). “I’m a journalist.”
Wilson said that he responded to reports of a “riotous mob” who were smashing windows and throwing objects at officers. He said he used a device called a “fogger” to cover the area with pepper spray and disperse the crowd, and decided to arrest Sahouri when she did not leave the area.
Robnett was pepper-sprayed when he tried to pull Sahouri away from the officer, according to Wilson’s account. Sahouri was taken to jail in a police van before being released several hours later, the AP reported.
Two Daily Caller reporters, Shelby Talcott and Jorge Ventura were arrested while covering a September 24 riot in Louisville, Kentucky. Talcott and Ventura had – like Sahouri – identified themselves as press before their arrest. Talcott and Ventura were eventually released after they had spent more than 12 hours in jail. The charges against them were later dropped.
From The Daily Caller
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