Photographer Michael "Mike" Gonzalez 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.
Gonzalez, who documents for LLN Arizona, part of a newsgathering collective, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he and his colleague Jack Sorgi arrived to document as hundreds gathered for demonstrations at the complex that day until most dispersed shortly before 11 p.m.
“There was a crowd that decided to stay — I’d say anywhere between 40 to 70 people,” Gonzalez said. “At some point, there was a group of 5 to 10 people who kept on touching the fence, grabbing the fence, checking its integrity to see how much it would take to pull it down.”
Gonzalez told the Tracker that immediately after some of the individuals pulled down a section of the fence, DPS troopers announced that it was an unlawful assembly and ordered everyone to disperse.
“At that same time, DPS from every corner — from inside the building, outside the building, from the street side — stormed in with police cars and riot gear,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said the troopers shouted for everyone to get on the ground, so he knelt on one knee while holding his press pass in front of him and identifying himself as press. In addition to his press badge, Gonzalez said he was wearing a shirt printed with Loud Labs News and was carrying a professional camera.
“A trooper basically storms in, yells at me to get all the way down and basically stands overtop of me as I laid there,” Gonzalez said. He added that he put his camera down in the grass and tried to angle it toward the other journalists who were being detained.
Sorgi and at least one other journalist, Arizona Republic photojournalist Alberto Mariani, were also ordered to the ground by state troopers that night. The Tracker has documented those incidents here.
After a few minutes, Gonzalez was told he could get up and that all members of the press should cross the street and stay out of the troopers’ way.
“My number one priority after my initial detainment was to figure out where Jack was and make sure he was good and that he didn’t actually get fully detained and put in handcuffs,” Gonzalez said. Once he located Sorgi, Gonzalez said the pair continued documenting until the troopers had completed the arrests of multiple demonstrators.
“We’re press photographers and we’re documenting, so a couple of our rights got broken,” Gonzalez said. “For that to happen on public property is kind of a scary thing to think about. If you go on state property or into a state building, you’re supposed to feel protected or safe and I didn’t.”
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.