U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Reporter arrested at land claim demonstration in Northern New York

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 21, 2024

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
New York State Police
Detention Date
Unnecessary use of force?

Indian Time reporter Isaac White was charged with trespassing and conspiracy while reporting on a demonstration on New York’s Barnhart Island on May 21, 2024. His case will be heard at the court in nearby Massena, seen above in a 2011 photo.

May 21, 2024

Isaac White, a reporter for Indian Time, was arrested while covering a demonstration on New York’s Barnhart Island at the Canadian border May 21, 2024.

The weekly newspaper reported that White arrived at the island, which is owned by the New York Power Authority, after receiving a news tip. He found a small demonstration opposing a proposed settlement of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s claims to that land.

When state police arrived at 7:30 p.m., demonstrators were using a backhoe to excavate at the NYPA’s St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project, the Post-Standard reported. A spokesperson for the NYPA said no equipment was damaged.

White told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker via email that when police arrived he moved closer to document their activities. He said that they issued a dispersal order but didn’t tell him where he could move to continue doing his job. When officers began arresting those present, White said he was the first detained. He identified himself as a reporter and said he was there in a professional capacity, but he was told it didn’t matter, Indian Time wrote.

“My press credentials were in my phone wallet that I wear around my neck,” White told the Tracker. “I identified myself as a reporter, and the police looked at my press credentials only after I was handcuffed.”

White and seven demonstrators were taken to the state police barracks in Massena before being released on charges of trespassing and misdemeanor conspiracy, according to a news release from the New York State Police. One of the demonstrators was also charged with second-degree criminal mischief, a felony.

White told the Tracker that he was held in police custody for three or four hours.

According to Indian Time, White’s charging documents state he is accused of “knowingly and unlawfully agreeing with several other individuals to engage in activity which included damaging property, belonging to the New York State Power Authority, to an extent constituting a felony in the state of New York.”

The New York State Police did not respond to requests for additional information.

White appeared alongside the other arrestees for arraignment on June 11, the paper reported, but the necessary paperwork had not been properly filed with the court and the hearings were adjourned. The reporter is scheduled to reappear in court on Aug. 13 at 1:30 p.m.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include comment and details from Isaac White.

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