Photographer Jack Sorgi was detained by Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers while documenting reproductive rights protests at the capitol building in Phoenix on June 25, 2022.
Protests broke out across the country following the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial ruling overturning Roe v. Wade on June 24, which established that the right to abortion is guaranteed under the right to privacy. The Republic reported that protesters in Phoenix gathered at the Arizona Capitol complex, pounding on the doors and windows of the Senate building while the legislature was in session.
Troopers set up temporary fences around the perimeter of the Capitol the following morning, according to The Republic.
Sorgi, who documents for LLN Arizona, part of a newsgathering collective, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that hundreds gathered for demonstrations at the complex that day until most dispersed at around 11 p.m.
“Around the 11:15 p.m. mark, that’s when protesters started grabbing on the chain link fence that surrounded the Capitol,” Sorgi said. “[They] started shaking it, eventually pulling the fence down about a dozen feet of the fence.”
Approximately 45 seconds later, Sorgi said state troopers announced that it was an unlawful assembly and dozens of troopers swarmed the area from the north and south sides of the Capitol.
In footage Sorgi captured of the incident, a line of troopers can be seen running out from behind the fences with some shouting “Get on the ground!” and “Back up!”
The video continues as Sorgi moves away from the advancing troopers toward the sidewalk where multiple individuals who appear to be photographers and legal observers are already kneeling on the ground.
Sorgi told the Tracker he verbally identified himself as press while holding his press pass out in front of him. He also said he was wearing a T-shirt with “media” printed across the front and back.
“Get all the way down man, all the way down,” a state trooper directs him in the footage. “I don’t care what your pass says.”
Sorgi said that after getting on the ground he tried to position his camera at the trooper who was giving him orders, but the trooper told him to put his hands “all the way down” and grabbed his camera by the lens hood and forced it into the ground.
At least one other journalist, Arizona Republic photojournalist Alberto Mariani, was also detained by state troopers that night. The Tracker has documented that incident here.
Sorgi continued to record as multiple individuals nearby were allowed to stand and leave the area. After approximately a minute on the ground, Sorgi said a trooper who appeared to be supervising the others said, “This guy has a camera, get him out of here.” Sorgi was then directed to stand and follow the others across the street.
When reached for comment, DPS Media Relations Specialist Bart Graves provided this statement: “They were in a restricted area and once they identified themselves as news media (via credentials) they were released. Local media are well aware of the rules.”
Find press freedom violations documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker at reproductive rights demonstrations across the U.S. here.