Photojournalist Alberto Mariani, a Pulliam Fellow with The Arizona Republic, was detained by Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers while documenting reproductive rights protests at the capitol building in Phoenix on June 25, 2022.
Protests broke out across the country following the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial ruling overturning Roe v. Wade on June 24, which established that the right to abortion is guaranteed under the right to privacy. The Republic reported that protesters in Phoenix gathered at the Arizona Capitol complex, pounding on the doors and windows of the Senate building while the legislature was in session.
Mariani told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that troopers set up temporary fences around the perimeter of the Capitol the following morning. Hundreds gathered for demonstrations at the complex that evening, Mariani said, and the protests continued peacefully until around 11 p.m. when most of the protesters dispersed.
“Around 11:30 p.m. that night, there were 50 or 60 people around and about five people started pulling down the fences,” Mariani said. “At that moment, once they tore down the fences, a group of 20 or 30 state troopers came out.”
The troopers announced that the assembly was unlawful and ordered everyone to disperse, but Mariani said that within 20 to 30 seconds the crowd — including him and Republic photojournalists Joel Angel Juárez and Antranik Tavitian — were surrounded.
“We were shouting that we were members of the press as we were holding our press badges up in the air, our cameras as well,” Mariani told the Tracker.
Mariani said he was separated from his colleagues and was standing approximately 5 to 10 feet away when a trooper approached and ordered him to get on the ground.
“I followed the order and got on the ground on my knees,” Mariani said. “As soon as I did, that same officer pushed me to the ground and restrained me for a little bit, and I saw from the photos that he was actually trying to handcuff me.”
Mariani said the trooper “absolutely” knew he was a journalist when he ordered Mariani to the ground, and continued to restrain him for several minutes until his colleagues told another trooper that he was with The Republic.
“It’s just evident that the officers didn’t care whether you were wearing a press badge or not,” Mariani said.
Jack Sorgi, a photographer with LLN Arizona, a newsgathering collective, was also detained by state troopers that night. The Tracker has documented that incident here.
After he was released, Mariani and his colleagues were ordered to the other side of the road along with all other members of the press. He said they were able to continue documenting without further issue as other detainees were arrested and processed.
When reached for comment, DPS Media Relations Specialist Bart Graves provided this statement: “They were in a restricted area and once they identified themselves as news media (via credentials) they were released. Local media are well aware of the rules.”
Find press freedom violations documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker at reproductive rights demonstrations across the U.S. here.