What Freedom of the Press?
by Joe La Sac
Without the support of possibly hundreds of community members and others from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Tacoma (and elsewhere) behind me, the police would not have paid any attention to the “journalists” in their jail cells this week. Society and especially the authoritarian organizations such as the police forces do not recognize non-corporate reporters with independent agendas as worthwhile members of an already established media elite. Therefore, there is no “freedom of the press” for us.
Without a loud voice from our viewers, supporters, and our friends, the message would not have gotten through to the authorities in St. Paul. Thank you.
I was released and my “rioting” charge, a felony crime, dropped. (Though they can re-charge me later.) The welts on my leg from the police baton are gone by now. I was hit and thrown violently onto the ground before being detained, and I am finally getting over the laryngitis-like sickness after running through tear gas and pepperspray and then sharing blankets with other inmates while in our street clothes. Whatever – we don’t call ourselves the Pepperspray film collective for nothing.
But several other independent journalists are still being charged with crimes!
Lambert Rochfort, my fellow Indymedia Presents producer and filmmaker with the Pepperspray collective, is being charged with “throwing feces”, “unlawful assembly” and possibly two other misdemeanors. For those who might not have noticed, Democracy Now! mentioned Lambert and I several times this week since Amy Goodman herself was detained by the St. Paul police, and because they had been using bits and pieces of our footage lately. Goodman’s Democracy Now! journalists and producers are still being charged with felony rioting. And there are others.
Amnesty International has heeded to our call. They released a press statement calling for these “crimes” and the police misconduct to be impartially investigated. The United Nations human rights codes, AI alleges, has been breached by the heavy policing of the protest.
Throughout this week, the independent media teams have been kept pre-occupied with the confiscating of our equipment for the entire convention, by beating us and keeping us in their jails, such that we have neglected our original interest – to cover the protests and the issues the protesters raise. That has all been thrown out the window now by this serious impingement on our freedoms.
The I-Witness video team was accused of holding delegates hostage in their home just hours after I was released from jail. So the police came by again to raid their building. My own building was buzzing with the threat of police raids, as cops found their way into the basement and were snooping around. Riot police took pictures from the outside, and military police spied through our windows with binoculars for several hours. Similar scenes were reported at the other independent media locations, all within the same time-frame early Wednesday afternoon.
The heavy intimidation, the clamp down on journalists who are specifically known to have anti-authoritarian coverage of protests, and the searching and stowing away of our equipment is an outright attack on the “freedom of the press”.