Plenty of people are unhappy all around about what happened in downtown Oakland Saturday evening -- journalists included. Hundreds of police in riot gear descended on a planned Occupy Oakland rally over the weekend, which escalated into another violent scene where more than 400 people were arrested.
Despite having press credentials, at least five of those who were hauled off to jail were local reporters covering the event, including journalists from the San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, the East Bay Express, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
Incidentally, local reporters have now become part of the very story they were covering, prompting the local Newspaper Guild to craft this very blunt message to the Oakland Police Department: Back off.
The guild has written a letter to Mayor Jean Quan and Police Chief Howard Jordan, requesting a meeting with the two leaders to discuss the problem of Oakland hindering reporters from doing their job.
According to the letter, dated Jan. 30, 2012:
Although several journalists were released quickly on the scene, others
were held for long periods of time, making it impossible for them to do
their jobs. Numerous reports from the scene document officers ignoring
reporters presenting their press credentials and admonishing them for
not following orders to disperse.
This despite the OPD's own guidelines, which stated, "Even after a
dispersal order has been given, clearly identified media shall be
permitted to carry out their professional duties in any area where
arrests are being made unless their presence would unduly interfere with
the enforcement action.
"Freedom of the press is key to our democracy and must be vigorously defended. Arrests of journalists and other police interference with reporters and photographers cannot be tolerated," Bernie Lunzer, president of The Newspaper Guild-CWA, stated in the letter.
Read a copy of the letter here.
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