For Shame! Another Injustice

Really, LAPD? Does it take 5 or 6 deputies to tackle a 95 lb. reporter, pinning her to the ground and arresting her for doing her job, simply because you perceived she might get in your way? That’s what happened Sept. 12 to Josie Huang, who clearly wore her press credentials and verbally identified herself as she covered BLM protests in Los Angeles. She was arrested around midnight, finally released around 4 am with a charge of obstructing a peace officer. (Is the irony in peace officer intentional?)

Full disclosure: Josie’s mother-in-law is one of my oldest friends, her husband is my godson, and I attended her wedding. She is a respected, award-winning journalist for KPCC and The LAist who covered the sheriff’s press conference at the hospital where two deputies underwent surgery after they were shot.  The mother of two toddlers herself, Josie recorded, “One of the deputies is a mom of a 6 year-old. I felt my chest tighten thinking about the little boy.”

As she was wrapping up her shift around 11 pm, Josie noticed a disturbance in the street: protestors taunting cops. One officer pointed a weapon at them. As she filmed a subsequent arrest, deputies yelled at her to stay out of the way, but she could find nowhere to go. The rest was filmed on this disturbing video:

The downward spiral is clear: two deputies simply sitting in a patrol car are seriously wounded by gun shots—another act of violence caused by the ridiculous, free access to weapons unique to the US. Other cops gather for a press conference at the hospital where the wounded are being treated. Obviously, they’re on edge—but must one point a gun at a demonstrator simply waving a flag? The simmering anger and blame suddenly shift to the wrong person, an innocent reporter. But the overkill is unjustified: five or six cops brutally  forcing a slight, unarmed woman to the ground, handcuffing her, ignoring her repeated protests that she is with the press.  

But in Trump’s US, press credentials don’t much matter.  Josie’s story is one of many, as journalists covering protests this summer have been consistently targeted.  In 2020, 190 journalists have been attacked, 61 journalists arrested, and there have been 800+ reported aggressions against the press during BLM protests. AS NPR’s official statement pointed out: “Huang, a KPCC public radio reporter was performing her job last night—gathering facts to inform the American public. The rights of journalists are protected by the First Amendment, essential to an informed public and our democracy.”

So this incident, aside from its personal connections, raises larger questions. First: without the press, where do we get the information vital to responsible citizenship? Second:  if police are this brutal with a respected reporter, how are they treating anonymous, powerless people of color?  

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