This certainly seems chilling, “Four more journalists get felony charges after covering inauguration unrest | Media | The Guardian”. While I don’t doubt that policing a riot situation is difficult, this does look like simple bulk arresting based on location. Which sends a chilling message to anyone covering future events – don’t, or you too could end “facing up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted.”
In all, more than 200 people were arrested on Friday, after property was vandalized in the US capital in the hours around Trump’s swearing-in as president. Police said that six officers suffered minor injuries.
The National Lawyers’ Guild accused Washington DC’s metropolitan police department of having “indiscriminately targeted people for arrest en masse based on location alone” and said they unlawfully used teargas and other weapons.
“These illegal acts are clearly designed to chill the speech of protesters engaging in First Amendment activity,” Maggie Ellinger-Locke, of the guild’s DC branch, said in a statement.
None of the arrest reports for the six journalists makes any specific allegations about what any of them are supposed to have done wrong. Keller’s report, which also covers the arrests of an unknown number of unidentified other people, includes a note that a police vehicle was vandalized. “I had absolutely nothing to do with the vandalism,” said Keller.
Reports on the arrests of five of the six journalists contain identical language alleging that “numerous crimes were occurring in police presence”. They state that windows were broken, fires were lit and vehicles were damaged. “The crowd was observed enticing a riot by organizing, promoting, encouraging and participating in acts of violence in furtherance of the riot,” the police reports said.
The US attorney’s office for Washington DC, which is prosecuting those arrested, declined to comment on the journalists’ specific cases but said it was continuing to review evidence from the day with the police.
“Based on the facts and circumstances, we determined that probable cause existed to support the filing of felony rioting charges,” William Miller, a spokesman for the office, said in a statement. “As in all of our cases, we are always willing to consider additional information that people bring forward.”