The Washington Post video journalist Whitney Leaming was detained alongside a colleague while documenting riots in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.
Leaming and fellow Post video journalist Zoeann Murphy were covering protests and demonstrations in downtown D.C., The Post reported, organized around the Congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. President Donald Trump held a rally in front of the White House and called on his supporters to protest the vote on the basis of unfounded claims of election fraud. Hoards of his supporters then marched to the Capitol, swarmed the building and broke inside, Reuters reported.
In response to the violence at the Capitol, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a public emergency and issued a curfew order from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following morning. The order explicitly exempted journalists and other essential workers.
Murphy told The Post in a live interview that the two journalists had been entrapped by Metropolitan Police Department officers using a technique known as “kettling,” wherein police surround a group from all sides to prevent exit. Murphy spoke to the outlet live while they were being detained, as Leaming continued to film the scene.
Independent journalist Talia Jane was also detained in the kettle. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented her detention here.
Murphy said that police confirmed multiple times that the journalists were under arrest, but did not provide further explanation, even though both Leaming and Murphy identified themselves as members of the press.
While speaking live with The Post at approximately 7:40 p.m., Murphy suddenly said that officers had decided to allow press to leave the scene after providing media credentials. She said she had her Washington Post press badge and was wearing a fleece with the news outlet’s name on it. In a video posted to Twitter by Murphy following their release, Leaming can be seen carrying a large camera and backpack with equipment.
The Tracker has documented Murphy’s detainment here.
The journalists were detained alongside the demonstrators for violating curfew Murphy told the Post.
Murphy told the Tracker that after they were released the police were “completely polite” to the pair as they continued documenting the scene for approximately 30 minutes.
A spokesperson for The Post said in a statement to The Wrap, “Our journalists were just doing their jobs and should never have been arrested in the first place. However, we’re pleased that police quickly released them.”
When reached by phone, a spokesperson for MPDC told the Tracker that it could not comment beyond this statement: “When we detain any reporters, it’s to maintain order and safety.”
The spokesperson said she could not comment further on the specifics of any case. The Tracker was then asked that any questions about the department’s use of kettling be sent via email. The department did not immediately respond to those or previously emailed questions.
This article has been updated to include comment from Zoeann Murphy.