U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent journalist detained in police roundup during LA protest

Incident Details

November 4, 2020

An independent journalist, who asked to be identified only by the anonymized Twitter handle of @desertborder, was one of at least four members of the press detained while documenting election-related protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in downtown Los Angeles, California, on Nov. 4, 2020.

The journalist told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that at approximately 7:30 p.m. a small protest was winding down near the intersection of West 5th and South Hill streets near Pershing Square. Only 40 to 50 people remained, the journalist said, including members of the press.

Los Angeles police officers arrived on motorcycles within minutes and announced that the gathering was an unlawful assembly.

The journalist tweeted that once police had hemmed in everyone present using a police tactic called kettling, they were told that all those inside the police circle were under arrest.

When the journalist attempted to identify as a member of the press to officers a few minutes later, according to a tweet posted at 7:44 p.m., an officer responded by pointing an unidentified weapon at the journalist.

“I have a lawfully issued press card,” @desertborder can be heard saying in the recording of the exchange.

In the video, the officer can be heard saying, “Turn around and go over there, go to the left.”

The journalist eventually returned to stand with other reporters. The Tracker has documented cases of three others detained that night: student journalist Emily Holshouser and videographers Vishal Singh and Sean Beckner-Carmitchel. Both videographers were arrested and charged with failure to disperse.

“Another officer came over and told us that this was now the press area and so long as we stayed there we wouldn’t be arrested,” @desertborder said.

The journalist tweeted at 8:05 p.m. that the LAPD officers had opened the kettle and released the remaining members of the press and demonstrators who had been detained.

When asked for comment about the arrests, Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson Capt. Stacy Spell confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that two individuals had been arrested and cited for failure to disperse. She also told the Times that LAPD officers have been dealing with large, disruptive crowds that all subsequently claim to be members of the press.

“We are having an ongoing challenge with individuals who are participating in disruptive activities, taking over the street and failing to disperse but subsequently claiming to be media,” Spell said. “Literally the entire crowd claimed to be media.”

The LAPD did not respond to an emailed request for further comment.

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