Freelance photojournalist detained, shoved while covering Echo Park protest
At least 17 journalists were arrested or detained in Los Angeles, California, while documenting demonstrations near Echo Park Lake on March 25, 2021, as reported to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, on social media and in other news outlets.
As crowds demonstrated against the city’s plan to clear a large homeless encampment, Los Angeles Police Department officers declared the gathering at the park’s northern entrance unlawful shortly after 8 p.m., the Washington Post reported.
According to the Post, before anyone could exit, a supervising officer announced that everyone was under arrest and officers surrounded the group using a police tactic called “kettling.”
Freelance photojournalist Joey Scott told the Tracker via email that he’d heard police give an order to disperse that night, telling legal observers and members of the press in particular to leave the area, but that he “stayed to do my job and document what was happening.”
Soon, though, he was trapped with protesters in the kettle. “I was shoved by a police officer who was setting up the skirmish line, pushing me back into the kettled group and not allowing me to leave,” he said.
Scott told the Tracker that he and other members of the media identified themselves as press to the police but were told that in order to leave the kettled area officers would need to speak to their supervisor, an effort that, according to Scott, “never happened.”
“We were detained for over two hours as they arrested people one by one,” Scott said. He posted multiple videos on Twitter showing police making arrests. Find all documented press freedom violations, including arrests, from the Echo Park Lake protests here.
“Police used force arresting people and pointed shotguns with bean bag rounds at members of the press and protesters,” he told the Tracker.
After roughly two hours, Scott said the press were told to show their credentials in order to leave the area. “I was told to leave the area and not to return unless I wanted to be arrested,” he said.
After being released from the area, Scott said, members of the press were not able to talk to any police officials and requests for information were ignored.
Around the time it was making arrests, LAPD issued a statement on Twitter that read, in part, “As a reminder, members of the media are also to obey the dispersal orders. Members of the media are to use the designated media viewing area.”
At around 1 a.m. on March 26, the LAPD posted another statement, specifically addressing the detainments of members of the press.
“An unlawful assembly was declared by the Incident Commander after the unlawful activity of individuals threatened the safety of the officers and all those present,” the statement read. According to the statement, police declared the gathering unlawful in part because protesters were shining strobe lights at police, which could “cause significant injury to the eyes.”
The statement said members of the press were directed to identify themselves and relocate to a media area about 350 feet away from the crowd.
The LAPD statement noted that as individual arrests were made of those inside the kettle, police officers “learned that several credentialed and non-credentialed members of the media were part of the group. Members from the Department’s Media Relations Division were summoned to assist in identifying these individuals and they were released at scene without being arrested.”
The Los Angeles Police Department, which accepts requests for comment only via email, did not respond to the Tracker’s request for further comment.