“Democracy Now” host Amy Goodman announced that she and two producers of the public radio news program have reached a settlement with law enforcement agencies for their arrests at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN. The three were arrested and charged despite being accredited journalists covering the demonstrations outside the GOP convention.
Goodman’s arrest was recorded on video, prompting journalist organizations to condemn the police actions. An Associated Press photographer also arrested that day was released without charges, but prosecutors attempted to pursue charges against Goodman and producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. All charges were eventually dropped.
Now, though, the three journalists are being paid $100,000 by the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments and the US Secret Service to settle a federal lawsuit over their improper arrests. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that an insurance policy purchased by the Convention organizing committee will cover the $90K due from the Twin Cities. The Federal Government will pay the $10K due from the Secret Service. The St. Paul PD has also agreed to implement a training program to educate officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public and proper procedures for dealing with journalist covering demonstrations.
“When journalists are arrested, it is not only a violation of the freedom the press, but of the public’s right to know,” said Goodman. “When journalists are handcuffed and abused, so is democracy. We should not have to get a record when we put things on the record.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Anyone who’s been a journalist for any length of time has no doubt had a run-in with at least one law enforcement officer who doesn’t understand that he/she is also subject to the constraints of the law. We certainly have, although we’ve managed not to ever get arrested. Police in Tampa and Charlotte should take note of this settlement and see to it that their officers understand how to properly deal with the legions of journalists who will descend on their cites for next year’s political conventions.