The Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists issued the following statement today regarding the arrest of KPCC/LAist reporter Josie Huang on Saturday, September 12, 2020, as she was covering a protest in the City of Lynwood:
SPJ/LA joins the Los Angeles community in expressing its concern for two Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies who were critically injured in an ambush shooting outside the Compton Metro Blue Line transit station.
Whenever officers are injured in the line of duty, emotions and tensions understandably run high within law enforcement. But that cannot be allowed to compromise those officers’ obligation to engage in proper conduct while carrying out their duties.
We are deeply troubled by news reports and on-the-scene video that details what clearly seems to be inappropriate use of force to subdue and arrest KPCC/LAist reporter Josie Huang as she attempted to cover the arrest of a protester outside the Lynwood hospital where the wounded officers were being treated.
Huang is an experienced reporter who clearly identified herself as a member of the press, yet was knocked to the ground, handcuffed, arrested, and may be charged for allegedly interfering with law enforcement. News reporting is not a crime, and we strongly urge that any pending charges against the reporter be dropped immediately.
While specific details remain under investigation, the Sheriff’s arrest of a journalist as she was attempting to do her job merits the attention of the entire Los Angeles journalism community. SPJ/LA takes special note that this is at least the second time that a journalist of color from this news organization was mistreated and injured while reporting on civil protests.
This action by the Sheriff’s Department demands attention both for what appears to be an excessive use of force, and as a serious threat to the First Amendment, which protects the press, free speech, and the right to protest.
We support the decision by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Inspector General to conduct an investigation into this incident. We also request that the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission take up this matter at the earliest opportunity, and we further request that the Board of Supervisors, which also oversees the Sheriff’s Department and authorizes its budget, invite Sheriff Alex Villanueva to appear before the Board as soon as possible to answer questions about this incident.
CONTACT: Joel Bellman, SPJ/LA (424) 324-1815
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