Huang was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice on Sept. 12 after the Saturday night shooting of two L.A. County Sheriffs. A crowd of agitators gathered outside St. Francis Medical Center, where the shooting victims were taken. The crowd blocked the emergency entrance and exit and chanted, “We hope they die,” the sheriff’s department said in a tweet. Huang states she was merely trying to cover the volatile scene when she was arrested.
The letter called for obstruction charge against her to be dropped and for the department to take steps to avoid future arrests of working media members. Earlier, SAG-AFTRA also protested Huang’s arrest.
Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee, issued a statement in conjunction with the letter. “Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies should never have arrested and charged Josie Huang, who was reporting on protests that are of immense public interest and concern. The charge against her must be dropped, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department owes both the press and the public an explanation as to why she was violently arrested, especially in light of multiple video recordings showing her clearly, loudly and repeatedly identifying herself as a journalist.”
In a letter sent to Sheriff Alex Villanueva today, Reporters Committee attorneys note that Huang was arrested and cited for obstruction despite wearing a visible press lanyard and badge, as well as verbally identifying herself as a journalist who works for KPCC multiple times.
“The right to record police activity in public is clearly established, and an officer who violates that First Amendment freedom — especially through the use of force — enjoys no legal immunity,” the letter states.
EARLIER: LAist reporter Josie Huang has been released from county jail after being arrested Saturday night while covering a protest outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood.
After the Saturday night shooting of two L.A. County Sheriffs, a crowd gathered outside St. Francis Medical Center, where the shooting victims were taken. The crowd blocked the emergency entrance and exit and chanted, “We hope they die,” the sheriff’s department said in a tweet.
Huang, an award-winning journalist, was arrested for allegedly obstructing justice. Video shows at least five deputies pinning Huang to the pavement, handcuffing her, and placing her in a patrol car.
The department initially refused to provide details of what happened, but later, Deputy Juanita Navarro of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau confirmed that deputies took Huang into custody on suspicion of obstruction of justice by “interfering with a lawful arrest.” Huang says she was trying to document the rest of a protester.
Navarro also said Huang “didn’t have proper credentials,” but video shows she was wearing press credentials around her neck.
KPCC, the Southern California Public Radio station which runs LAist, issued this official statement: “We offer condolences to the two sheriff deputies who were shot Saturday evening. These are challenging and stressful times for everyone, but Josie Huang was arrested while doing her job. The charges should be dropped.
“Her arrest is the latest in a series of troubling interactions between our reporters and some local law enforcement officers. Journalists provide an essential service, providing fair, accurate and timely journalism and without them, our democracy is at risk.”
Huang’s arrest was condemned by NPR and other media members in a series of tweets on the incident.
Hi, all. I’m out of county jail and am headed home. Thank you for caring. I have seen @LASDHQ tweets and have thoughts and videos to share soon after a little rest
— Josie Huang (@josie_huang) September 13, 2020
This is the video @josie_huang sent right before she was tackled and arrested. Some reporters have told me sheriff’s officials claimed she rushed the ER. Not true and totally out of character pic.twitter.com/WVydMYn9wA
— Megan Garvey (@garveymcvg) September 13, 2020
— Lucas Kwan Peterson (@lucaspeterson) September 13, 2020
— Claudia Peschiutta (@ReporterClaudia) September 13, 2020
NPR is appalled by the arrest of Josie Huang, a KPCC public radio reporter, who was performing her job last night—gathering facts to inform the American public. The rights of journalists are protected by the First Amendment, and essential to an informed public and our Democracy.
— nprextra (@NPRextra) September 13, 2020
UPDATE #2: #LASD Undersheriff @LASDMurakami told me around 20 minutes ago that he would look into the arrest by his deputies of @KPCC @LAist reporter @josie_huang. We have asked for her immediate release and an apology from the department. https://t.co/f16QI0rez7
— Frank Stoltze (@StoltzeFrankly) September 13, 2020
LASD deputies just tackled and violently arrested a credentialed reporter, @josie_huang of @KPCC as she arrived at the hospital where LASD scheduled a press conference tonight. pic.twitter.com/fNBCmsFjes
— Chad Loder (@chadloder) September 13, 2020
This is disturbing news! I’ve worked with @josie_huang at KPCC. Her journalistic integrity, judgement, and compassion is stellar. I can’t believe what @LASDHQ claims, especially after covering them while reporting on LEO’s in SoCal. And four deputies to arrest her … ridiculous. https://t.co/NwSSzRfIqi
— Erika A. Aguilar (@erikaaaguilar) September 13, 2020
KPCC’s @josie_huang was forced to ground by five LA County sheriff’s deputies and arrested last night while covering the arrest of a protestor
Jailed & released this AM after being charge w misdemeanor obstruction of justice https://t.co/lwaSf7vWCU
— David Folkenflik (@davidfolkenflik) September 13, 2020