Evan Engel headshot

Vocativ journalist charged with rioting in Washington

January 20, 2017

Evan Engel was arrested on January 20, 2017, while covering protests on the day of the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump. At the time, Engel was a senior producer at Vocativ. Vocativ spokeswoman Ellen Davis told the Committee to Protect Journalists that police seized Engel’s camera and mobile phone.

In a blog post for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Engel wrote about the circumstances of his arrest:

The group – which included protesters, journalists (including myself), medics, and legal observers – raised their hands in the air and awaited further instructions from the police.

I livestreamed the detention on Facebook. After about 40 minutes, police officers from DC’s Metropolitan Police Department began pulled me from the group (livestreamers were among the first arrested). As I’ve done in numerous protests since 2008, I showed officers my camera and business cards and explained that I was a journalist.

“That’s great,” one officer replied. “I’m a sergeant.”

Engel was charged with the highest level of offense under Washington, D.C.’s law against rioting, which applies when there are injuries as a result of the activity or property damage in excess of $5,000, which can be punished by a maximum of 10 years in jail and fines of up to $25,000.

Engel wrote that he was detained for over 27 hours. He said that he and other detainees were subjected to abusive treatment, including being locked in the back of an overheated van.

On January 27, all charges against Engel were dropped. Police later returned his phone and camera.

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