U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent reporter held by NYPD while covering pro-Palestinian march

Incident Details

SCREENSHOT COURTESY PETER HAMBRECHT, VIA X

Independent reporter Katie Smith, second from right, is seen being detained by New York City Police Department officers on May 11, 2024, as she documented a pro-Palestinian protest on the Manhattan Bridge. She was released around 15 minutes later.

— SCREENSHOT COURTESY PETER HAMBRECHT, VIA X
May 11, 2024

Independent reporter Katie Smith was briefly detained by New York City Police Department officers while covering a pro-Palestinian protest on the Manhattan Bridge on May 11, 2024.

Smith, who covers protests and social movements in New York, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker she was documenting a protest that began in downtown Brooklyn but broke into separate groups, with one group of about 100 people heading over the bridge toward Manhattan.

Smith said she was filming the protesters as they marched across the bridge, with a group of NYPD officers walking toward them as they approached the Manhattan side.

At that point, Smith, around 20 feet in front of the protesters, said she made sure to position herself to avoid obstructing police as she filmed. “I saw the officers and I realized I don’t want to get caught up in the group. I want it to be very obvious that I’m press, so I made sure my credential was clearly displayed and made sure I was off to the side.”

However, one of the commanding officers then approached her. “He told me, ‘You’re press. You’re not allowed to be on the bridge. You’re under arrest.’ And then put me in cuffs.”

Smith said she was then taken to the middle of the bridge and off to the side by another officer, so was unable to observe what was happening. She added that she was one of the first people to be placed under arrest on the bridge and made sure that other journalists were aware that she was being detained so they could document it.

“I was in cuffs for about 15 minutes, and other journalists were able to flag down one of the commanding officers” to alert him that a member of the press had been detained, Smith explained. The officer came over and cut off the cuffs, she added.

According to Smith, three other journalists on the bridge were also briefly detained, but were released around two minutes later and allowed to continue documenting the events on the bridge. “I was slightly in front but only by a little bit, so I’m not really sure what logic they were using to determine which ones were going to be detained or not.”

Smith added that the only other woman journalist on the bridge was also detained. “It definitely seemed to me as if we weren’t really taken seriously.”

Ultimately, at least 150 protesters were reported taken into custody after blocking traffic on the bridge that day.

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.

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