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Democracy Now Update

Posted by libhom Sunday, September 21, 2008

The false charges against the Democracy Now! journalists and other journalists have been dropped by the city of St. Paul now that the RNC is over. This is similar to a pattern during the 2004 RNC in New York City.

In 2004, outlandish criminal charges were leveled against protesters in order to stifle dissent. The charges had no chance of holding up in court, but they did function as a method of preventative detention, and they were dropped after the event was over.

Similarly, the 2008 charges against journalists were used to prevent coverage of police misconduct during the Convention. It would be interesting to know if the false charges against protesters this year will be chucked similarly.

Hat tip to Ten Percent for pointing to the Star Tribune story about the $10 million the RNC paid St. Paul to cover legal costs from police misconduct. The fact that the city of St. Paul demanded this payment is the equivalent of a signed confession that they intended to break the law repeatedly during the convention.

Here's the Democracy Now! press release with details on the charges against journalists being dropped:

September 19, 2008
Charges Dropped Against DN! Journalists–Investigation Needed

The St. Paul City Attorney’s office announced Friday it will not prosecute Democracy Now! journalists Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman also issued a statement Friday that “the city will decline to prosecute misdemeanor charges for presence at an unlawful assembly for journalists arrested during the Republican National Convention.”

Both announcements come two weeks after the conclusion of the Republican National Convention where over 40 journalists were arrested while reporting on protests taking place outside the convention center.

Upon learning of the news, Democracy Now! Host, Amy Goodman said, “It’s good that these false charges have finally been dropped, but we never should have been arrested to begin with. These violent and unlawful arrests disrupted our work and had a chilling effect on the reporting of dissent. Freedom of the press is also about the public’s right to know what is happening on their streets. There needs to be a full investigation of law enforcement activities during the convention.”

Goodman was arrested while asking police to release Kouddous and Salazar who had been violently arrested while reporting on street demonstrations. After being handcuffed and pushed to the ground, Goodman reiterated that she was was a credentialed reporter. Secret Service then ripped the credential from around her neck.

During demonstrations on the first day of the convention police used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and force against protesters and journalists. Several dozen demonstrators were arrested, as was a photographer for the Associated Press.

John Lundquist, attorney for the Democracy Now! journalists, said, “The most notable lapse by law enforcement during the RNC was the record-breaking number of journalists indiscriminately arrested and detained for doing nothing more than performing in the best tradition of reporters who gather the news.”

In the weeks after the journalist arrests, tens of thousands of members of the public contacted St. Paul officials to protest the unlawful arrests of working journalists. Goodman said, “We were deeply moved by the outpouring of support. We thank everyone who called and wrote first to have us freed and then to have the charges dropped. We thank everyone who stood up for press freedom and the First Amendment.”

The YouTube video of Goodman’s arrest was the most watched YouTube video during the convention week. It has now been viewed over 830,000 times. Salazar’s video of her own violent arrest is also available on YouTube.

2 comments

  1. I guess the people can sue?? I hope they do and I hope they win...

     
  2. JayV Says:
  3. libhom, thanks for this news.
    Left I on the News, quoting the mayor of St Paul: "This decision reflects the values we have in Saint Paul to protect and promote our First Amendment rights to freedom of the press.”

    and Eli at Left I goes on to write: n case you've forgotten (or didn't know), one of the things that the St. Paul police did while arresting (and brutalizing) Democracy Now! producer Nicole Salazar was to "protect and promote her First Amendment rights" by removing the battery from her camera so she couldn't continue filming.
    Link: http://lefti.blogspot.com/2008_09_01_archive.html#8686030706753089673

     

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