U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Grand jury subpoenas independent journalist for video footage of DC protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 4, 2018

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
Luke Kuhn subpoena excerpt
September 4, 2018

Luke Kuhn, an independent journalist and contributor to anarchist news outlet It’s Going Down, was served a grand jury subpoena on Sept. 4, 2018. The subpoena, which was later withdrawn, ordered Kuhn to hand over his video footage of Unite the Right II, a far-right protest that took place a few weeks earlier.

Kuhn told Freedom of the Press Foundation that the subpoena was delivered to his mother’s house on Sept. 5. The subpoena ordered him to appear at the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia on the morning of Sept. 11 and to bring:

All recorded images, audio and data of protests near the White House, in Washington, D.C., on August 12, 2018, between the hours 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., that are contained in a hand-held, Canon, flip-screen camera, with a black hand strap, that you possessed within the District of Columbia on August 12, 2018.

Grand jury subpoena to Luke Kuhn

Kuhn said he was notified on the morning of Sept. 11 that the subpoena had been withdrawn.

Kuhn said that he was unsure why the grand jury was interested in his footage, but he speculated that federal prosecutors may wish to identify anti-fascist protesters who were present at the rally.

In 2016, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia, indicted more than two hundred anti-fascist protesters (and two independent journalists) on federal rioting charges. Much of the evidence in those indictments came from seized video footage of the J20 protests.

“Under no circumstances would I comply with this, or any other, Grand Jury subpoena relating to people involved in social movements,” Kuhn said. 

On a solidarity rally on the morning of Sept. 11 in Washington, D.C., Kuhn burned multiple copies of the subpoena.

William Miller, a public information officer at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, declined to comment on the subpoena.

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