Journalist briefly detained while covering D.C. protests

June 22, 2020

Shelby Talcott, a staff reporter for the Daily Caller, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was briefly detained by police while covering protests against police violence in Washington, D.C., on June 22, 2020.

Talcott said she had been filming protests in the nation’s capital for much of the evening. At one point, she said, individuals in the crowd accused her of being an undercover cop, shoving her and trying to take her phone, an incident the Tracker has documented here.

Talcott said she was eventually shoved into a police line, and officers pulled her through to the other side. Once there, an officer from the Metropolitan Police Department placed her in handcuffs, walked her to an area about two blocks away where there were no protesters, and released her within five minutes, Talcott said.

While reporting on protests in D.C. the next day, Talcott said, she asked an officer to explain why she had been detained. She said the officer, who wasn’t present for the altercation the day before, told her that it was standard practice to handcuff anyone who breaches a police line “because they’re not sure who you are.”

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department for the District of Columbia said in a statement to the Tracker that officers consider “several factors and the information available to determine if an individual should be placed in handcuffs.”

“This applies to any situation involving MPD, including crossing a police line,” the spokesperson said.

Talcott told the Tracker that she had taken to dressing “low key” while covering protests and without clear identification as a journalist to avoid being targeted by individuals who “don’t want certain things getting out.” She said she told protesters at the scene multiple times that she was a member of the press and she was sure officers heard it.

“I’m not sure the officers handled it in the best way, but the protesters didn’t either,” Talcott told the Tracker.

Protests against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Movement have been held across the country after a viral video showed a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or having their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

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

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