News Journal reporter one of three journalists detained by Philadelphia police past curfew
Two journalists working for Wilmington’s The News Journal and Delaware Online were temporarily detained on June 1, 2020, the outlet reported. Philadelphia police arrested reporter Jeff Neiburg and photographer Jenna Miller as they returned home from reporting around 7 p.m., after the 6 p.m. curfew, Miller said in a tweet.
A third journalist was similarly detained that night in Philadelphia. Kristen Graham, a reporter for the daily Philadelphia Inquirer, was also arrested by police as she attempted to return to her car soon after the curfew, the paper reported.
Their respective outlets said the three journalists were reporting on protests that began in Minnesota on May 26 and spread across the country, sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest the day before. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
As the curfew set in by 6 p.m. and the protesters dispersed, Miller and Neiburg decided to go home and file their reporting, Neiburg said in an interview with the local radio station 97.5 The Fanatic. Miller’s bike was parked near police headquarters, so they headed in that direction.
They asked a police officer how to get there safely, who instructed the journalists to walk around the south side of City Hall, Neiburg said in the radio interview. As they walked, they saw police officers arresting people.
The journalists held their press credentials in the air, Neiburg said in the radio interview.
“They’re going to round you up, they’re going to round you up,” a group of officers warned the journalists. One of the police officers started to escort Miller and Neiburg out of concern they would be arrested, Neiburg said in the radio interview.
But two other officers interceded and overruled her, Neiburg said. The journalists were to be detained.
Miller said in a tweet after her release that they repeatedly identified themselves as journalists and showed their press credentials. But officers claimed they were under orders to detain everyone.
“I don’t believe you,” one officer told the journalists, in reference to their press credentials, according to Neiburg.
Miller and Neiburg were placed in plastic restraints and escorted to gender segregated buses, Neiburg said in the radio interview.
Graham wrote in her account for the Inquirer that she was also arrested near City Hall and brought to an empty bus that soon was filled with more than 20 women, including Miller from The News Journal. The journalists, with the other detainees, were then driven to the 22nd District Headquarters.
For two hours, the journalists remained on the buses, their outlets reported. In her Inquirer account, Graham described how the buses were not air conditioned and one woman urinated herself after not being allowed to use the bathroom. Another woman had a medical emergency and was eventually taken to receive medical care.
An officer informed the detainees on Graham and Miller’s bus they would be issued citations for violating the curfew and released by the end of the night, both journalists said.
Graham wrote in the Inquirer that she was eventually able to maneuver her hands in order to send texts to her husband and editor on her smartwatch. A lawyer for the Inquirer contacted city officials. Around 9 p.m., the journalists were released without charge but with an apology from officials.
City spokesperson Mike Dunn told the Tracker that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is “extremely troubled” by the detentions and has called some of the journalists. Both Mayor Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw “are strongly committed to allowing press access so the public can be fully informed,” Dunn said.
Toward that end, Dunn said Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw ordered an investigation into the detentions. And police protocols that ensure “properly credentialed press are essential workers and not subject to restrictions of a curfew, as long as they are not impeding public safety or police operations […] have been reiterated repeatedly in internal communications to officers.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred total incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country related to the death of George Floyd. Find all of these cases here.