At least 13 journalists, and likely more, were arrested or detained in Los Angeles, California, while documenting demonstrations near Echo Park Lake on March 25, 2021, as reported to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, on social media and in other news outlets.
As crowds demonstrated against the city’s plan to clear a large homeless encampment, Los Angeles Police Department officers declared the gathering at the park’s northern entrance unlawful shortly after 8 p.m., The Washington Post reported.
Before anyone could exit, according to The Post, a supervising officer announced that everyone was under arrest and officers surrounded the group using a police tactic called “kettling.”
Kate Cagle, an anchor and reporter for Spectrum News 1 SoCal, a local Los Angeles news channel, was among the journalists detained while she was covering the protests.
Cagle posted on Twitter at 8:22 p.m. that she was being held in the kettle at Echo Lake Park. A few minutes later, she posted a video of protesters and police, explaining that the group was being held between two lines of police officers.
At around 9 p.m. Cagle tweeted that an officer announced that everyone was being arrested.
In a video Cagle later posted on Twitter, two officers are leading Cagle away from the camera. She can be heard saying, “Wait, I’m with Spectrum News 1!” and saying that she needs to stay with the members of her crew.
At 10:03 p.m., Cagle posted that she had been released.
She wrote on Twitter that she identified herself as a Spectrum News 1 reporter and showed a press pass issued by Los Angeles County. She said she also texted her location to the LAPD public information officer, and her newsroom called a police supervisor.
“They still handcuffed me,” she wrote.
While she was detained in the kettle, Cagle posted on Twitter that she was with two freelance photographers who were live-streaming for Spectrum News 1. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has not been able to identify the two photojournalists, and Cagle did not respond to a request for comment. Efforts to reach newsroom leaders of Spectrum News 1 were not successful, but the channel’s news site confirmed in an article that Cagle had been detained and released.
Around the time it was making arrests, LAPD issued a statement on Twitter that reads, in part, “As a reminder, members of the media are also to obey the dispersal orders. Members of the media are to use the designated media viewing area.”
At around 1 a.m. on March 26, the LAPD posted another statement specifically addressing the detainments of members of the press.
“An unlawful assembly was declared by the Incident Commander after the unlawful activity of individuals threatened the safety of the officers and all those present,” the statement reads. According to the statement, police declared the gathering unlawful in part because protesters were shining strobe lights at police, which can “cause significant injury to the eyes.”
The statement says members of the press were directed to identify themselves and relocate to a media area about 350 feet away from the crowd.
The LAPD statement notes that as individual arrests were made of those inside the kettle, police officers “learned that several credentialed and non-credentialed members of the media were part of the group. Members from the Department’s Media Relations Division were summoned to assist in identifying these individuals and they were released at scene without being arrested.”
The Los Angeles Police Department, which only accepts requests for comment via email, did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
The Tracker documents all arrests separately. Find all arrests and detainments from the Echo Park Lake protest here.