U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Videographer cited for being in roadway during LA protest

Incident Details

March 1, 2021 - Update

Police did not charge videographer following November detainment

Sean Beckner-Carmitchel, a Los Angeles-based independent videographer, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in November 2020 that he was detained and issued a citation while covering the Marathon Party at the Polls event, sponsored by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.

When contacted by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a founding partner of the Tracker, for follow-up in March 2021, Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office spokesperson Rob Wilcox said in an email that the office did not receive an incident report against Beckner-Carmitchel from that day.

Beckner-Carmitchel also told CPJ in March 2021 via text message that his traffic violation was not listed. Given lack of documentation indicating any outstanding charges, the Tracker is listing his case as having no charges.

November 3, 2020

Sean Beckner-Carmitchel, a Los Angeles-based independent videographer who has been covering local demonstrations for several months, was detained and issued a citation on Nov. 3, 2020.

On the evening of the U.S. elections, Beckner-Carmitchel told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was documenting an event titled Marathon Party at the Polls, sponsored by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. An Instagram post by BLMLA advertised the event as from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with guest speakers, food, music and giveaways planned.

Beckner-Carmitchel said that when he arrived at around 6 p.m., the gathering was generally peaceful and there was not a large police presence. A bit before 7:30 p.m. Los Angeles Police Department officers advanced on and arrested three individuals whom Beckner-Carmitchel identified as protest medics. Beckner-Carmitchel tweeted that the medics were targeted “because they were in antifa guise.”

“At that point the crowd got a little unruly, and police were sort of antagonizing the crowd,” Beckner-Carmitchel said. In a tweet posted by Beckner-Carmitchel, officers appear to rush the crowd of protesters and grab a fourth individual.

Soon after, officers declared the gathering an unlawful assembly, according to Beckner-Carmitchel, and while most dispersed, a group of approximately 20-30 people left the area to regroup elsewhere. Beckner-Carmitchel decided to stay behind to document the arrests of the four individuals.

“I decided after covering the detainments for about 20 minutes to catch up with the main crowd,” Beckner-Carmitchel said. “Not long after I did catch up with them was the moment when everyone was kettled and I was detained.”

Kettling is a police maneuver by which officers hem in protesters from all sides to prevent anyone from dispersing and is often followed with arrests or citations.

In a video Beckner-Carmitchel posted on Twitter, a woman can be heard calling out to police a few yards away, “We are press and National Lawyers Guild!” Legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild regularly attend protests across the country — identifiable by their lime green hats — in order to monitor police conduct.

Beckner-Carmitchel told the Tracker that though he identified himself as a member of the press and was standing on the sidewalk, he was cuffed and issued a citation that states his violation was “pedestrian on the road.”

“Everyone was detained one by one, cuffed, cited and then released,” he said.

Beckner-Carmitchel said that once the citations were issued, everyone was allowed to leave the kettle. He estimated that they were detained for an hour and a half and released around 9:30 p.m.

Shortly before midnight, Beckner-Carmitchel posted another video, noting, “They are threatening to arrest me. AGAIN- I was already cited today.”

In a recent internal memo shared by Beverly Hills Courier reporter Samuel Braslow, the LAPD explicitly stated that members of the press — regardless of whether they have media credentials — have a right to document protests.

“The intent of this message is to remind supervisors and line personnel that the Department WILL recognize individuals who self-identify as media representatives and will NOT require specific media credentials,” the memo from Deputy Chief Dominic Choi reads.

“The inability to produce identification does not preclude an individual from acting as a member of the media,” the memo says in boldface type.

The Los Angeles Police Department did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Beckner-Carmitchel was detained by LAPD officers in another law enforcement kettle the following night, Nov. 4, alongside at least three other journalists, and was arrested on charges of failure to disperse. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented those detentions here.

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