U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist Tonita Cervantes arrested at Standing Rock

Incident Details

Date of Incident
February 22, 2017

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Unnecessary use of force?
Status of Seized Equipment
Returned in full
Search Warrant Obtained
Actor who seized equipment
Law enforcement
REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Police use a water cannon on protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. Nov. 20, 2016.

— REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
April 27, 2018 - Update

Charges dismissed

Cervantes's charge of physical obstruction was dismissed on April 27, 2018.

February 22, 2017

Tonita Cervantes, a freelance photojournalist, was arrested on Feb. 22, 2017, while covering events at the Dakota Access Pipeline camp. Police seized her phone, camera, lenses, external battery packs, blank flash cards, and data discs and held them as evidence.

Cervantes is charged with physical obstruction of government function, a Class A misdemeanor that could result in a year in jail. According to police records, Cervantes pleaded not guilty.

Cervantes' seized equipment was returned to her on March 1, according to the National Press Photographers Association.

Cervantes is scheduled to go to trial in June 2018.

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