KPCC Journalist Tackled, Arrested While Trying To Cover L.A. Protest
For hours on Saturday, KPCC reporter Josie Huang kept her followers informed with regular updates on Twitter as she covered the protests and unrest around Los Angeles.
She was heading to Compton, she said, to cover the shooting of two L.A. County Sheriff's deputies, ambushed while sitting in their patrol car. The deputies were in critical condition on Sunday. The shooter was still at large.
Suddenly, Huang's Twitter feed went silent.
Only hours later did readers learn, via a tweet by a colleague, that Huang had been detained by authorities. A news report on KPCC's sister site, LAist, elaborated, reporting that the award-winning journalist had been tackled and arrested by several sheriff's deputies while she was trying to document the arrest of a protester outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood.
Video of the arrest, taken by the local ABC affiliate, shows multiple deputies pinning Huang face down against the pavement. KPCC Executive Editor Megan Garvey says Huang had just finished drafting a tweet when she was "tackled and arrested."
Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials said that Huang "didn't have proper credentials," and was taken into custody on suspicion of obstruction of justice by "interfering with a lawful arrest."
The sheriff's office said that Huang ran toward a group of deputies as they were struggling with an uncooperative protester they were trying to arrest. Huang "ignored repeated commands to stay back" and "did not identify herself as press," law enforcement officials said.
KPCC reported that sheriff deputies knocked Huang's cellphone from her hands when they arrested her. Huang had been recording video at the time. In the video, she can be heard identifying herself as a reporter and yelling, "You're hurting me," KPCC reported.
In a statement, NPR's senior vice president of news said the organization is "appalled" by Huang's arrest while performing her job and gathering facts to inform the public.
"The rights of journalists are protected by the First Amendment, and essential to an informed public and our Democracy," said Nancy Barnes.
Huang was held in the women's jail at the Century Regional Detention Center, LAist reported. She was released several hours later and cited with obstruction. The charge carries a potential penalty of up to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
"Hi, all. I'm out of county jail and am headed home," Huang tweeted in the early morning hours. "Thank you for caring." Huang said she would have "thoughts and videos to share soon after a little rest."
Photos of Huang show scrapes and bruises on her ankle and arms. A KPCC executive told LAist Huang also had a black eye and a sore shoulder.
In a statement, KPCC called for the charges against Huang to be dropped.
"Her arrest is the latest in a series of troubling interactions between our reporters and some local law enforcement officers," KPCC said. "Journalists provide an essential service, providing fair, accurate and timely journalism and without them, our democracy is at risk."
Tension between police and journalists has been building across the country as law enforcement uses sometimes aggressive tactics against them.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, which tracks violence against journalists around the world, has noted more than 800 instances of reported aggression against the press by police during Black Lives Matter protests across the country.
CPJ condemned Huang's arrest, and said it was "disturbed by video of many officers pinning her to the ground."