U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent journalist briefly detained amid DC riots

Incident Details


Rioters stormed the Capitol to disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's victory on Jan. 6, 2020. Three journalists were detained after a curfew was ordered in response to the violence.

January 6, 2021

Independent journalist Talia Jane was briefly detained while documenting riots in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.

Jane was documenting via Twitter protests and demonstrations unfolding in downtown D.C., organized around the Congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. President Donald Trump held a rally in front of the White House and called on his supporters to protest the vote on the basis of unfounded claims of election fraud. Hoards of his supporters then marched to the Capitol, swarmed the building and broke inside, Reuters reported.

In response to the violence at the Capitol, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a public emergency and issued a curfew order from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following morning. The order explicitly exempted journalists and other essential workers.

Jane told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker via direct messages that she was at the Capitol at around 7:30 p.m. to document a small group of Trump supporters who were trying to defy the curfew order.

“MPD [Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia] made three warnings for people to leave within the space of a minute or two, then started moving people back,” Jane said. “Eventually they formed a big circle, told me because I was press I could leave any time but didn’t answer questions about non-press people still there.”

Moments later, an officer in a white shirt told the others to start grabbing people, Jane said.

An officer placed his hand on her shoulder and began escorting her out of the police “kettle,” a police tactic of encircling a crowd which is often followed with mass citations or arrests. Jane said that she was not released, but led to two coach buses alongside the other detainees.

Two Washington Post journalists, Zoeann Murphy and Whitney Leaming, were also detained within the police kettle. The Tracker has documented those detentions here.

Jane said that she continued to film the scene and attempted to ask both her arresting officer and the commanding officers at the scene whether press were exempted from the curfew, but they ignored her.

“Still on my phone, not zip tied, just being held by my backpack so I can’t move around too much,” Jane said.

When she reached the front of the line, Jane said one of the commanding officers examined her press badge and asked which outlets she works for, and she listed a few.

“Satisfied, he tells me they’re going to let me go but on the caveat I head straight home.”

Jane said she was released at approximately 7:45 p.m., then remained at the scene for a while with other members of the press. She said she was not hassled further by the police.

When reached by phone, a spokesperson for MPDC told the Tracker that it could not comment beyond this statement: “When we detain any reporters, it’s to maintain order and safety.”

The spokesperson said she could not comment further on the specifics of any case. The Tracker was then asked that any questions about the department’s use of kettling be sent via email. The department did not immediately respond to those or previously emailed questions.

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