U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Reporter arrested while covering a Proud Boys rally and counterprotest in Kalamazoo

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 15, 2020
Location
Kalamazoo, Michigan

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Status of Charges
Charges dropped
Unnecessary use of force?
Yes

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
THE DETROIT NEWS/CHRIS DUMOND

MLive reporter Samuel Robinson was arrested while covering a rally in downtown Kalamazoo organized by members of the far-right group Proud Boys and which drew counterprotesters on Aug. 15, 2020.

— THE DETROIT NEWS/CHRIS DUMOND
August 15, 2020

MLive reporter Samuel Robinson was arrested while covering a rally in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Aug. 15, 2020.

Robinson, who did not respond to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s requests for comment, was livestreaming from a downtown rally organized by members of the far-right group the Proud Boys and which drew counterprotesters, MLive reported. Violence between the two groups began to escalate around 1:30 p.m., according to a tweet posted by Robinson.

In a subsequent tweet, Robinson noted that as violence broke out, he was caught in pepper spray deployed by members of the Proud Boys amid the melee.

After about half an hour, dozens of police officers arrived at the rally, MLive reported. In a Facebook Live broadcast captured by Robinson, who is Black, he can be heard identifying himself as a reporter as officers took him to the ground. As he repeatedly states that he is being arrested, the video feed abruptly cuts out.

Robinson was charged with impeding traffic and released from police custody on a $100 bond shortly after 5 p.m., according to a tweet he posted.

John Hiner, vice president of content for MLive Media Group, condemned Robinson’s arrest in a statement to the outlet.

“The working press must be assured the right to cover public events that clearly are in the public interest, without reprisals,” Hiner said.

At a press conference on Aug. 16, Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson announced that the charge against Robinson had been dropped and the city’s police chief issued a public apology.

“I want to make an apology here and I want to address the arrest of the MLive reporter who they believed to be interfering and obstructing with their operations to restore the order,” Public Safety Chief Karianne Thomas said.

“I personally want to apologize for that event. The reporter was wearing a visible credential and should not have been arrested. I apologize for the trauma that it caused this young man.”

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