LAPD treatment of media at abortion rights protest denounced

Independent journalist Tina-Desiree Berg was standing on a sidewalk Friday night filming the arrest of a pro-choice protester in downtown Los Angeles when a police officer hit her sideways in the head.

Berg, a regular chronicler of the LA protests, was “focused on getting the shot” and didn’t even see the officer approach her, she said. When she tried to get her bearings, another officer pushed her so hard that she fell to the ground. video shown.

Others in the area shouted that Berg was a journalist as she got to her feet and showed the police officer who pushed her her press badges, which were hanging around her neck.

“We’re trying to protect you,” he said – which infuriated Berg and others.

“It’s been handled so badly, I still can’t believe it,” Berg told the Times Saturday morning.

Journalists and news watchers said the incident fits into a broader pattern of aggressive and apparently unlawful treatment of journalists by LAPD officials during the protests that followed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision .

Over the course of several hours, LAPD officials repeatedly ignored recently expanded protections put in place for journalists covering protests in the state and used physical force to remove them from areas to which they were entitled, journalists said.

According to Times reporters, witness videos and interviews with other media representatives at the scene, journalists were pushed, beaten with batons, forced out of areas where they had the right to observe police activity and prevented from entering other areas where police and Demonstrators stopped Clashes and arrests ensued.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the department will investigate the complaints.

“We will investigate any allegation of misconduct, including that a member of the media requested and should have been granted access and was denied,” Moore said. “If the officer is found to have ignored the law, ignored the policy, disciplinary action will follow.”

The latest incidents follow years of discussions between Moore, other senior LAPD leaders and members of the media over officials’ mistreatment of the press — including during mass protests following the 2020 killing of George Floyd and demonstrations over the eviction of a homeless camp in Echo Park last year Year .

Partially in response to these incidents, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation expanding the rights of journalists covering protests, and the LAPD introduced a new policy clarifying that journalists — including those from major media organizations and independent bodies — can Have the right to cover protests and enter areas that police have closed off.

Adam Rose, chair of the LA Press Club’s Press Rights Committee and leading efforts to get the legislation passed, said much of those protections appeared to have been forgotten as of Friday night.

“After all the legwork that has gone into preventing this in the LAPD over the past several years, it is heartbreaking to see this repeat in the field,” said Rose.

Rose spent part of Friday night collecting examples of LAPD officers violating journalists’ rights, including in videos the journalists posted on Twitter.

Rose said the actions of the officers captured in the videos were “extremely inappropriate and a pretty clear violation of the new law”.

Following the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, protesters took to the streets across LA and across the country. Many in LA headed downtown where some managed to march down the 110 Freeway while others gathered around City Hall and Pershing Square.

By about 7:45 p.m., officers had exited the freeway and were moving across an overpass when independent photojournalist Joey Scott and LA Taco reporter Lexis-Olivier Ray began filming them from the sidewalk.

LAPD policy states that members of the media, independent or not, may “enter” areas where police are clearing protesters and not be summoned for failure to disperse. It also said that officials “shall not intentionally attack, disrupt or impede any duly authorized member of the media who is collecting, receiving or processing information for disclosure to the public.”

Scott and Ray repeatedly posed as press representatives to the advancing officers on the overpass, but the officers seemed unconcerned and began shoving the journalists and yelling, “Get out of the area.”

Then, as Scott stepped onto a crosswalk, “an officer put his baton in my chest and pushed me to the ground,” Scott said.

“Their behavior was just very sarcastic and just not really communicative,” Ray said. “There were no protesters there, there was no threat, and I was kind of surprised that they reacted that way.”

Ray said the incident “set the tone” for the rest of the night as officers, with some positive exceptions, continued to ignore journalists’ rights. He said they ignored his questions about where the department had designated media staging areas and his requests to speak to supervisors — both violations of policy.

Times journalists were also denied access to certain locations, evicted from areas where they had a right under state law and the Constitution, and requests to speak to superiors were denied.

Sam Braslow, a reporter for the Beverly Hills Courier, was filmed being pushed backwards through another row of officers by a group of officers.

“I haven’t seen officials this aggressive in a long time. The police also used violence against other members of the press,” Braslow wrote on Twitter shortly after 9 p.m

“It was a huge, huge step backwards,” Ray said of the LAPD’s response to reporters Friday night.

“Last night was one of the most egregious acts of violence I have seen against protesters and the press in a long time,” Scott said.

Capt. Kelly Muniz, the LAPD’s chief spokeswoman, said the department was aware of complaints from journalists Friday night and took steps to address them immediately.

At around 10:17 p.m., Muniz sent a message to all officers about respecting media rights.

“If you encounter members of the media, remember that a manager must be contacted immediately and access granted to them should be judged on the basis of the individual’s conduct, as opposed to formal credentials,” the E- Mail.

“Facilitating the right to free press is critical to the other freedoms we enjoy,” Muniz wrote.

Moore said that while most officers would not have received this message had they been deployed on the road, commanders were also assessing conditions on the ground and trying to facilitate access for journalists where possible.

He said officers were kept busy, such as encountering a protester who was using an aerosol can “as a flamethrower”, having rocks, bottles and firecrackers thrown at them and trying to finish with an “incursion” into the freeway posed a physical threat to protesters, journalists, officials and motorists alike.

In such scenarios, the physical safety of officers and others — including journalists — must be a priority, Moore said. But he also expects officers to “try to do their best to respect that media access is granted,” he said.

“I want our people and the media to have a harmonious relationship. I want us to be able to work together,” Moore said. “As a journalist, I want you to feel that the department respects your rights and access and that we are doing our best.”

That was just not the perception of many journalists on Friday evening.

Berg, who was “bruised all over” by Saturday, said the force used against her was extreme and came without being asked first by the officer, who she was trying to film so she could give him more space.

The officer who pushed her “could have just said, ‘Can you move about a foot? I know you’re trying to get a shot and I would have said, ‘Sure.'”

Berg said that while the physical violence was the most staggering, it pointed to a much bigger issue Friday night — namely, officials’ general disregard for journalists’ rights on the ground.

“Every time you tried to show them ID,” she said, “they didn’t care.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-25/lapd-treatment-of-journalists-denounced-again-after-abortion-rights-protest-downtown LAPD treatment of media at abortion rights protest denounced

Alley Einstein

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