The Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists issued the following statement today responding to numerous national and local reports of attacks on journalists covering protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, and called on L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to investigate and prosecute police use of excessive force:
SPJ/LA shares the widespread sorrow and outrage at the death of George Floyd and strongly supports the commitment of Minneapolis authorities to pursue criminal prosecution of those responsible. As many others have noted, Floyd’s killing is only the latest in a long line of incidents that have seen excessive force and unacceptable police tactics deployed disproportionately against people of color, too often with little or no consequence. This week’s protests and civil disturbances must be viewed in that larger context.
As a professional organization dedicated to advocating for journalists and the practice of journalism, we also note with particular concern the numerous incidents nationally, and locally, that involve targeted attacks by law enforcement personnel on individual journalists who clearly identified themselves as journalists and were simply doing their jobs. These included not just reporters and photographers sent to Minneapolis but a radio correspondent in Long Beach who was shot in the throat and injured by a rubber bullet that may have been fired at him deliberately.
SPJ/LA is alarmed by the general use of excessive force by police and specifically about the use of any force against journalists seeking to cover the events. Because these incidents are not confined to simply one police agency, we urge District Attorney Jackie Lacey to prioritize investigation and prosecution of excessive force abuses locally, including those committed against working journalists.
SPJ/LA is also concerned that such conduct reflects not simply a lack of training and discipline by law enforcement agencies, but the longstanding contempt and hostility from the president and other public officials toward a free and independent press.
As others have noted, the press is the only profession that is specifically singled out for constitutional protection in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights. Those in law enforcement who endanger and harm journalists must be held accountable.
CONTACT: Joel Bellman, Advocacy Committee Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org
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