U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Investigative journalist arrested at New Mexico campus encampment

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 15, 2024

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Charges
Detention Date
Unnecessary use of force?
No
COURTESY TARA ARMIJO-PREWITT

Investigative reporter Bryant Furlow and photojournalist Tara Armijo-Prewitt were arrested on May 15, 2024, while reporting on student protests at the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque, pictured in this 2009 file photo.

— COURTESY TARA ARMIJO-PREWITT
May 15, 2024

Investigative reporter Bryant Furlow was arrested by University of New Mexico police officers while covering a pro-Palestinian protest encampment on the Albuquerque campus on May 15, 2024.

Students, alumni, faculty and community members erected the encampment on April 22 in solidarity with the calls for a cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza war and divestment from Israeli companies, the university’s student newspaper the New Mexico Daily Lobo reported.

UNM President Garnett Stokes sent a university-wide email on May 14 demanding that the encampment be taken down by 5 p.m., according to the Daily Lobo, and 12 hours after the deadline, additional notices were delivered to the remaining protesters ordering them to leave the site within the hour. Officers with the UNM Police Department and New Mexico State Police began dismantling the encampment at around 6 a.m., arresting seven people.

In a statement published by New Mexico In Depth, for which Furlow is a frequent contributor, the journalist said he and his wife — photojournalist Tara Armijo-Prewitt — were among those arrested. The pair went to the campus that morning in anticipation of the encampment sweep.

“Upon arriving on the scene, I asked officers where news media were permitted to stand to document the operation and did not receive an answer,” Furlow said. “I asked officers several times if there was a public information officer on scene with whom I could speak and was told there was not. I also inquired about who was in charge but got no response.”

Furlow also noted that at all times he and Armijo-Prewitt followed instructions from law enforcement and remained behind the yellow police tape.

“We were arrested while photographing the operation and shortly after asking an NMSP officer for his badge number and name,” Furlow said. “As I was being arrested, I said I was a member of the press repeatedly and loudly.”

The pair were transported to the Metropolitan Detention Center and held there for 12 hours, Furlow said, before being released with charges of criminal trespass and wrongful use of public property.

Furlow, who did not respond to a request for additional comment, said in his statement that they wanted to obtain an attorney to fight the charges before speaking about the incident further.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government condemned the arrests in a statement to the Albuquerque Journal and called on the UNM Police to drop the charges.

“Arresting journalists for reporting the news is blatantly unconstitutional,” said the foundation’s executive director, Melanie Majors. “The officers involved either knew the arrests were unconstitutional and proceeded anyway or do not realize their actions are completely indefensible under the First Amendment.”

The UNM Police Department did not respond to a request for comment from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, but told KOB-TV the charges are still pending and officers are completing their supplemental reports.

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