SAG-AFTRA is protesting Saturday’s arrest of KPCC reporter Josie Huang while she was covering the arrest of a protester outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, where two LA County Sheriff’s deputies were being treated after being shot in their squad car by an as yet unidentified assailant.
Huang, a member of the union, “was visibly credentialed as a working journalist and verbally identified herself as a member of the press,” the union said. “She had done nothing to warrant questioning. This is another deeply troubling interaction in a string of police arrests and often violent attacks on working journalists who are abiding by the law and simply trying to do their jobs.”
SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said, “These unconstitutional attacks on the rights of a free press are appalling and must stop now. SAG-AFTRA champions the U. S. Constitution and the work of our journalist members, whose primary role is to provide citizens with the information they need to effectively govern a democracy. The people’s right to a free press is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which establishes that the press shall be free from government interference in the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions.”
The sheriff’s office said that Huang had run toward a group of deputies as they were struggling with an uncooperative protester they were trying to arrest, and that the public radio reporter “ignored repeated commands to stay back” and “did not identify herself as press.” The sheriff’s department also said that Huang “didn’t have proper credentials,” and was arrested on suspicion of “interfering with a lawful arrest.”
Nancy Barnes, NPR’s senior vice president of news, said that she was “appalled” by Huang’s arrest. “The rights of journalists are protected by the First Amendment, and essential to an informed public and our democracy.” Photos of Huang show scrapes and bruises on her ankle and arms, and a KPCC executive told reporters that Huang also suffered a black eye and a sore shoulder.
Huang was held for several hours in the women’s jail at the Century Regional Detention Center, and released after being cited for obstruction. SAG-AFTRA is calling on the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to drop all charges and apologize to Huang.
Bob Butler, SAG-AFTRA’s national vice president of broadcasters and journalists, said, “Reporters cover the news so that the public is informed. It is outrageous that sheriff’s deputies arrested Huang, whose station identification was clearly displayed while she identified herself as a journalist several times.”
The union also strongly condemned the shooting of the two officers, who remain hospitalized in critical condition. Outside the hospital Saturday night, some protesters shouted: “I hope they f***ing die.” The LA County Board of Supervisors is offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the shooter, whose image was captured on surveillance video.
“We unreservedly condemn the vicious attack on the deputies in Compton Saturday night and hope that their assailant is caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” SAG-AFTRA said. “We send our heartfelt wishes for the deputies’ full and complete recoveries, and express our deep gratitude to them and to their colleagues who work to keep our communities safe while respecting our rights as citizens in a democratic society.”
That sentiment was shared by journalists at KPCC, who said in a statement, “We offer condolences to the two sheriff deputies who were shot Saturday evening. These are challenging and stressful times for everyone, but Josie 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.”