U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

L.A. Taco reporter detained while covering Echo Park protest

Incident Details

REUTERS/David Swanson

Los Angeles Police Department officers detain protesters demonstrating against the closure of a homeless encampment at Echo Park Lake on March 25, 2021. More than a dozen journalists were also arrested or detained.

— REUTERS/David Swanson
March 25, 2021

At least 13 journalists, and likely more, were arrested or detained in Los Angeles, California, while documenting demonstrations near Echo Park Lake on March 25, 2021, as reported to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, on social media and in other news outlets.were arrested or detained in Los Angeles, California, while documenting demonstrations near Echo Park Lake on March 25, 2021, as reported to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, on social media and in other news outlets.

As crowds demonstrated against the city’s plan to clear a large homeless encampment, Los Angeles Police Department officers declared the gathering at the park’s northern entrance unlawful shortly after 8 p.m., The Washington Post reported.

Before anyone could exit, according to The Post, a supervising officer announced that everyone was under arrest and officers surrounded the group using a police tactic called “kettling.”

Los Angeles Times reporter James Queally tweeted that he and reporter Lexis-Olivier Ray, who writes for the digital news site L.A. Taco, were standing next to each other inside the “kettle” as police faced off with protesters. Queally noted that just a week earlier, he had written a story for the Times about the “failure to disperse” charges brought against Ray by the LAPD months after he was covering another incident in downtown L.A.

Ray tweeted that he and Queally were trying to stick together after the crowd was boxed in, and he posted footage he took as Queally was led away by officers and placed in zip-tie cuffs.

Ray confirmed to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he continued filming as officers arrested more individuals in the kettle — sometimes violently. In the footage, Ray can be heard saying, “Why are you pointing this [weapon] at me? I’m with the media,” as an officer trains his weapon on Ray’s chest and face.

Queally tweeted that after his arrest and release 30 minutes later, Ray called him and said that he was still detained in the kettle.

“I managed to get hold of an officer in media relations who rushed to do something about it,” Queally wrote. “I’m still worried he might have gotten arrested otherwise.”

Ray tweeted at around 10:30 p.m. that he had been released, along with other members of the press, without being formally arrested.

“They held us there for more than an hour and then let people go if they had a press pass,” Ray told the Tracker. “Last year they said press could self-ID but I think they only let people go [that night] if they approved their press pass.”

Around the time it was making arrests, LAPD issued a statement on Twitter that reads, in part, “As a reminder, members of the media are also to obey the dispersal orders. Members of the media are to use the designated media viewing area.”

At around 1 a.m. on March 26, the LAPD posted another statement specifically addressing the detainments of members of the press.

“An unlawful assembly was declared by the Incident Commander after the unlawful activity of individuals threatened the safety of the officers and all those present,” the statement reads. According to the statement, police declared the gathering unlawful in part because protesters were shining strobe lights at police, which can “cause significant injury to the eyes.”

The statement says members of the press were directed to identify themselves and relocate to a media area 350 feet away from the crowd.

About the media area, Queally tweeted, “Media pens are deliberately setup to keep reporters AWAY from news. Tonight was no different. It was nowhere near the protests or action in the park.”

The LAPD statement notes that as individual arrests were made of those inside the kettle, police officers “learned that several credentialed and non-credentialed members of the media were part of the group. Members from the Department’s Media Relations Division were summoned to assist in identifying these individuals and they were released at scene without being arrested.”

The Los Angeles Police Department, which only accepts requests for comment via email, did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

The Tracker documents all arrests separately. Find all arrests and detainments from the Echo Park Lake protest here.

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