Tuesday, September 2, 2008
"Three journalists including Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman have been released after being arrested covering anti-war protests at the RNC. (See Video of the arrest four posts down)
Goodman was arrested while questioning police about forceful tactics used to arrest two of her colleagues, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. Kaddous was reportedly slammed against a wall leaving him scratched and bruised while Salazar was pinned to the ground while shouting "I'm press, I'm press!"
Ramsey County police say Goodman's two colleagues were arrested on "suspicion of rioting" while Goodman herself has already been charged with obstructing a legal process and interference with a "peace officer".
Democracy Now! has released a statement condemning the charges as "false and an attempt at intimidation" of journalists. "Democracy Now! stands by Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and condemns this action by Twin Cities' law enforcement as a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amendment rights of these journalists," the statement read.
The first amendment of the US constitution protects the freedom of speech and freedom of the press but tough crackdowns on protesters at last week's Democratic National Convention and this week in St. Paul have cast doubts on the right to peaceful protest in the United States. During the demonstration in question, law enforcement officers reportedly used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force against protesters and journalists. Several dozen demonstrators were arrested, as well as a photographer for the Associated Press.
The arrests followed armed police raids over the weekend on groups planning anti-war protests outside the Republican convention, which is due to end on Thursday. Police used battering rams to break down doors, brandished weapons, cuffed occupants and forced them to the floor.
The Ramsey County Sheriff department issued a press release saying that five arrests were made on charges of "probable cause conspiracy to riot, conspiracy to commit civil disorder and conspiracy to damage property." Police have presented items they alleged were to be used by protestors against convention attendees such as "weaponized urine", which turned out to be bath water reserved for flushing toilets and a bicycle tyre which police said could be used as a catapult.
Minneapolis lawyer Bruce Nester who represents one of those arrested in the weekend raids said the police actions were intended to send a clear message. "It's okay to write a letter, vote, but don't go out in the street, don't organize public activities, because, do you want us bursting into your house, do you want to be associated with people who are getting arrested?" "