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Connecticut reporter arrested and briefly detained while covering demonstration

May 13, 2019

Hearst Connecticut Media reporter Tara O’Neill was arrested while covering a demonstration in Bridgeport and briefly held in police custody on May 9, 2019.

According to her first-person account for the Connecticut Post, O’Neill was handcuffed by Bridgeport police while she was reporting on a protest commemorating the two-year anniversary of the fatal police shooting of teenager Jayson Negron. O’Neill was held for about 30 minutes, and then released without charges.

O’Neill shared video footage of her arrest on Twitter.

“I was standing on the sidewalk when they were asking people to get off the street and as I was being handcuffed I said, ‘I’m on a public sidewalk. I’m the press,’” O’Neill told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in an email. “All I heard the arresting officer respond was ‘Ok,’ before he told me to sit down on the ground and not move.”

She said she was wearing her press badge on a lanyard around her neck, and that after being handcuffed, she attempted to explain to the officers that she was a reporter.

“It didn’t seem to make any difference to them at that point,” she said.

O’Neill was put in the back of a police car and taken to the police station, but never placed in a holding cell. The arresting officer, according to O’Neill, later apologized and said he did not know she was a reporter.

The New England First Amendment Coalition quickly condemned her arrest and detention. The Coalition called on Bridgeport police to issue a formal apology, release the name of the arresting officer, and review the department’s internal policies to prevent the future infringement on journalistic rights.

“Looking back at what happened, I’m frustrated to know that there might not have been anything I could have done to prevent it — other than not showing up and doing my job,” O’Neill wrote in the Connecticut Post.

— The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]

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