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Journalists swept up in GOP convention protests won't face charges

By The Associated Press
09.22.08

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Charges will be dropped against journalists who were arrested during the Republican National Convention protests and cited with unlawful assembly.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said on Sept. 19 that the city attorney's office recommended against prosecuting reporters for the misdemeanor charge.

"This decision reflects the values we have in St. Paul to protect and promote our First Amendment rights to freedom of the press," Coleman said in a prepared statement.

He added, "At the scene, the police did their duty in protecting public safety. In this decision, we are serving the public's interest to maintain the integrity of our democracy, system of justice and freedom of the press."

He said on Sept. 19 that the city didn't know yet how many cases the decision would affect, and he said the city would use a broad definition of journalists caught up in mass arrests.

City Attorney John Choi said it would take a while for his office to review each case, do the paperwork and notify everyone involved.

More than 800 people were arrested in St. Paul and Minneapolis during the convention. Journalists among them included Associated Press reporters Amy Forliti and Jon Krawczynski.

City spokesman James Lockwood said charges against them would be dropped.

Dave Tomlin, associate general counsel for the AP, said, "It's always good to learn that a bogus charge against you has been dropped. We're still waiting for police to account for the unprovoked smackdowns of two of our photographers."

The AP has sent the Police Department a letter asking for an accounting of police treatment of photographers Matt Rourke and Evan Vucci while they were covering violent protests during the convention.

Amy Goodman, host of the syndicated radio and television program Democracy Now!, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of obstructing the legal process during the protests. Two producers of the show were also arrested.

Choi said the city would also drop charges against the three of them.


Previous
AP photographer, TV-radio host arrested during anti-war protest
286 people were arrested yesterday in St. Paul, including two producers with syndicated Democracy Now! show; all journalists were released by this morning. 09.02.08

Related

Minn. police release jailed Ky. journalism students (news)
Britney McIntosh and Edward Matthews were photographing violent protests in St. Paul when they were arrested, held in jail for two nights. 09.04.08

Some question police after 800 arrests at GOP convention (news)
AP requests accounting of treatment of two of its photographers; Reporters Committee asks officials to drop criminal citations issued to up to 20 detained journalists. 09.08.08

Let’s hope convention cities respect right to protest (commentary)
By Gene Policinski To shut down demonstrations, police and public officials must have more supportable reasons than vague concerns over order, safety or image. 08.24.08

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