U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist Cheney Orr arrested at Trump inauguration protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
January 20, 2017

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
Metropolitan Police Department
  • Rioting
    • Jan. 20, 2017: Charges pending
    • Feb. 21, 2017: Charges dropped
Unnecessary use of force?
Status of Seized Equipment
Returned in part
Search Warrant Obtained
REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

DC riot police form a line across K Street Northwest at 13th Street as protesters react to the swearing in of U.S. President Donald Trump in downtown Washington, U.S., Jan. 20, 2017. 

— REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
January 20, 2017

Cheney Orr, an independent photographer, was arrested on Jan. 20, 2017, while covering protests on the day of President Donald Trump's inauguration. Orr was doing a portrait series that day when he was arrested with a group of 60 protesters, handcuffed with zip ties, and his gear confiscated: this included his digital Canon DSLR camera, two lenses, a Contaxt point-and-shoot, memory cards, a Rolleiflex 120 film camera, and his cellphone.

He was one of more than 200 people arrested and charged with felony rioting, the highest level of offense under Washington D.C.’s law against rioting. While he was released the next day, law enforcement wanted to use his images as evidence, but couldn’t access them without a warrant or Orr’s permission. When Orr’s attorney advised him that the warrant would almost certainly be granted and that waiting for the warrant would leave his equipment impounded for weeks or months, Orr granted his permission.

The felony charges were dropped on Feb. 21, though Orr is still waiting for the return of both his film and memory cards.

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