Videojournalist arrested, equipment seized and damaged during Austin protests

July 17, 2020

Independent videojournalist Hiram Gilberto Garcia was arrested and his equipment seized while covering protests in Austin, Texas, on July 17, 2020.

Garcia, who posts his livestreams and interviews on Facebook and his website, was documenting protests against police brutality in front of the Austin Police Department Headquarters downtown when officers tackled him to the ground and punched him, KXAN News reported. Garcia’s livestream from that evening can be seen here.

According to an affidavit obtained by KXAN, Austin Police Department officers were arresting another man and had warned Garcia to get back when the videojournalist began reaching between the officers. An officer then pushed Garcia back, the affidavit alleges, and Garcia attempted to turn and run into the crowd. Officers then took Garcia to the ground in the APD parking garage and placed him under arrest, according to the affidavit.

In Garcia’s footage from that night, he appears to be filming the arrest of a protester when an officer repeatedly pushes him back from the individual under arrest. The officer then points at Garcia and can be heard saying, “Grab him!”

A video of Garcia’s arrest was posted on Facebook that night. In the video, multiple officers can be seen wrestling Garcia to the ground while individuals can be heard shouting “Get off of him” and “Give us Hiram back!” Approximately 1 minute and 30 seconds into the video, Garcia appears to free his right arm before officers immediately restrain him again. An officer can be seen punching Garcia twice in the stomach before other officers block the view.

The affidavit said officers “kept telling Hiram he was under arrest and to place his hands behind his back, but Hiram would not comply and kept tensing his arms in an attempt to not be placed in handcuffs.”

A post to Garcia’s Facebook page at approximately 11:30 p.m. alerted his followers to the arrest.

“Hiram was taken into police custody tonight during his stream. We are dealing with it, and appreciate all your help and concern,” the post reads.

Garcia was booked at the Travis County Jail at 12:16 a.m. and released at 11:45 p.m. on July 18, according to booking information shared with the Tracker. A post to Garcia’s Facebook page announced his release on bond at 1:20 a.m. on July 19.

KXAN reported Garica was arrested on charges of interfering with public duties and resisting arrest.

Garcia posted on July 21 that his equipment — which included a “GoPro, light, monopod, microphone, battery pack, adapters and other important accessories” — was not returned to him upon his release, and that he would not be able to retrieve it until the following day.

When the equipment was returned, Garcia posted that his microphone was broken and a cord was missing.

“Overall, my equipment was obviously not handled with care,” Garcia wrote.

In a statement to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker emailed from Garcia’s account, a representative for Garcia said, “We have no comment on the arrest as that is not our position or job. We are there to show what is happening as it happens. In this case we were targeted and arrested as you can see on the video by the very police we had been interviewing for months.”

The representative also stated that the charges against Garcia have since been dropped.

APD and the Travis County Jail did not respond to requests for comment.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect booking information shared with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in compliance with a Texas Public Information Act request.

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

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