U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist detained by deputies after documenting arrests at Idaho Pride parade

Incident Details

REUTERS/JOHN RUDOFF

More than 30 members of a white nationalist group were arrested at a Pride event in Idaho on June 11, 2022. Shortly after documenting their arrests, independent journalist Alissa Azar was herself detained by law enforcement.

— REUTERS/JOHN RUDOFF
June 11, 2022

Independent journalist Alissa Azar was detained by Kootenai County Sheriff's deputies and her car searched after she documented multiple arrests at a Pride parade in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on June 11, 2022.

Portland-based Azar told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker she decided to travel to Idaho when she became aware that right-wing and neo-Nazi groups were planning a protest in opposition to the annual Pride in the Park event.

Azar told the Tracker she documented the arrests of two individuals at around 1 p.m., and then continued to report on the general festivities and the actions of the gathered counterprotesters. Azar said she was planning to leave a few hours later when she saw a sheriff running with his baton out, trailed by six or seven individuals.

“I wasn’t sure what was going on but I knew something was happening, so I started running and I followed them,” Azar said. “I followed all the way out of the park and another one to one-and-a-half blocks away, where there were a bunch of police cars in the street. As I got a little bit closer that’s when I saw the group of Patriot Front that was arrested.”

CNN reported that 31 individuals believed to be affiliated with Patriot Front — which the Anti-Defamation League identifies as a white supremacist group — were arrested for conspiracy to riot.

Azar said that while filming law enforcement unmasking and processing each individual, an officer called her by name and told the officer next to him, “There’s your girl, the one filming.”

At approximately 1:38 in her footage, a voice can be heard saying, “Hey Azar, hey Azar.” As the video pans to the right, an officer waves at her while a voice off screen says, “Yeah, that’s her.”

Azar told the Tracker that she returned to her car when the arrests were finished, which was parked about a mile away.

“I had a bad feeling after being called out by name, but I didn’t notice anyone following me,” Azar said. She opened all of her car doors to allow it to cool off; within five minutes, a Kootenai Sheriff's deputy arrived and began asking her questions.

“I do think it was extremely targeted,” Azar told the Tracker.

The deputy told her that by leaving her doors open she was blocking the roadway and breaking the law, so she closed the doors but the officer continued to question her and asked her to sit on the sidewalk. Azar told the Tracker that throughout the encounter she identified herself as a journalist and was wearing her press badge.

She said two additional police vehicles pulled up within 15 minutes, and an officer questioned her about her presence at the various arrests during the day.

“He said that he was suspicious of my involvement because I was one of the first people there on the scene, but I thought that was very odd because there were a bunch of onlookers there that were witnessing it,” Azar said. “And I was the first person at every arrest that happened that day because that’s kind of what I do: I document all of that.”

She was then told to go back to the sidewalk, where within moments a Sheriff’s deputy told her she was being detained.

“I thought it was a joke,” Azar said.

The K-9 officer and other deputies proceeded to search her car and belongings. Azar said that while she was sitting on the sidewalk, numerous other officers took photos of her with their cell phones.

Officers did not find anything in her car, Azar said, and she was ultimately released without charges after about an hour. She told the Tracker she has not decided whether to file a complaint with the Sheriff’s department.

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