Dover Post journalist detained despite repeatedly identifying as press
Andre Lamar, a photographer and reporter for the Dover Post, was detained as he covered protests against police violence in Delaware on June 9, 2020, according to his outlet.
The protests were held in response to a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the U.S. since the end of May.
The demonstrations continued in Dover on June 9, as protesters marched to nearby Camden along Route 13, according to news reports. Several dozen protesters blocked traffic near a Wawa convenience store.
In a Facebook Live video posted shortly after his release, Lamar explained the protesters had used the tactic of blocking traffic for several days as a way to engage the public with their message as the police stood by. There was tension between the protesters and police on June 9, Lamar said in his reporting on Facebook Live, but the protest remained non-violent.
The Dover Police claimed the protesters had become “more hostile” to motorists and pedestrians in recent days, leading to 911 calls and nearly missed traffic accidents. According to the Delaware State Police, the situation on June 9 escalated when a police vehicle was not allowed to pass and the officer exited the vehicle. Law enforcement warned the protesters to stop blocking traffic and get off the road, the state police statement said.
Lamar captured his detention on a Facebook Live video posted around 6:30 p.m. In the video, Lamar films as officers arrest protesters on the grass next to the road. The officers “slammed them down to the ground,” Lamar says in the video. “There are people laying down on the ground right now and we don’t know why.”
In the video, Lamar asks officers why they are arresting protesters. But he does not get an answer. He appears to place the camera down on the grass. Seconds later, Lamar begins to ask “Sir, why are people…” when a Dover Police officer grabs him suddenly.
“I’m with the press! I’m with the press!” Lamar yells as the camera shakes chaotically, capturing glimpses of several Dover Police officers placing him into custody.
Drone footage released by the Dover Police show officers completing the arrests of protesters on the side of the road. Lamar stands to the side and bends down to access his backpack. A Dover Police officer leaves one individual already in custody and begins to approach Lamar.
The Dover Police said the officer was concerned for public and officer safety, not knowing what Lamar was retrieving from his bag. Throughout the week some protesters had been armed, Dover Police said.
Suddenly the officer charges at Lamar and grabs him. Two other Dover Police officers nearby assist in restraining Lamar.
“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Lamar says to the officers in his Facebook Live video. Officers tell him to stop resisting. “I have a press badge on,” Lamar says.
“You may, but you gotta listen to us, OK? Just relax,” an officer responds.
An officer picks up Lamar’s phone, which is still filming his Facebook Live video. Lamar addresses his audience. “You’ve got no help here,” an officer says. “The best thing you can do is be quiet, alright?”
For at least nine times in two minutes, Lamar identifies as a journalist. The livestream ends as an officer places Lamar’s camera into his bag.
Lamar and 21 others were taken into custody and transported to Delaware State Police Troop 3, the state and Dover Police said. Lamar was released without charge after police confirmed he was working as a journalist.
One other individual was released without charge. Twenty were charged with a combination of misdemeanor charges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstruction, state police said.
Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a statement that "neither a prosecution of these protesters, nor an investigation into the police—both of which have been demanded, with equal volume—would serve a good purpose." Jennings added that her office asked Delaware State Police to release Lamar immediately upon learning he was in custody.
Delaware Governor John Carney condemned Lamar’s arrest on Twitter. “Reporters have a fundamental right to cover the demonstrations we’re seeing in Delaware and across our country,” he wrote. “They should not be arrested for doing their jobs. That’s not acceptable.”
After his release, Lamar continued to report on a livestream from outside the police station, where family members and supporters of the arrested protesters had gathered.
“Honestly, I’m pissed,” Lamar, who is Black, says in the live video. “I’m pissed because this should never have happened. And I’m more pissed because I’m privileged. I have a badge. That’s why I believe I’m still not inside Troop 3 right now.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering Black Lives Matter protests across the country. Find these incidents here.