September 19, 2008

RNCArrests Charges are being dropped against over two dozen journalists, including Amy Goodman and her two producers, arrested during the crackdown on protests at the Republican convention in St. Paul. Goodman's charge of "obstructing the legal process" has been dropped, as have felony riot charges against her colleagues Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Other dropped charges are mainly for "unlawful assembly".

The city's mayor had a truly gag-worthy Orwellian statement on the subject:

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said Friday that the city attorney's office recommended against prosecuting reporters for the misdemeanor charge.

"This decision reflects the values we have in St. Paul to protect and promote our First Amendment rights to freedom of the press," Coleman said in a statement.

He added, "At the scene, the police did their duty in protecting public safety. In this decision, we are serving the public's interest to maintain the integrity of our democracy, system of justice and freedom of the press."

One has to wonder if this was the plan all along, and the real intention was simply to inhibit reporting of abuses against protestors. Or maybe they're hoping that with the reporters out of court, the media won't be so interested in covering the 800 or so other arrests. With over forty journalists arrested, there should surely be at least some investigation of police officers involved for trumping up charges too:

Upon learning of the news, Democracy Now! Host, Amy Goodman said, “It’s good that these false charges have finally been dropped, but we never should have been arrested to begin with. These violent and unlawful arrests disrupted our work and had a chilling effect on the reporting of dissent. Freedom of the press is also about the public’s right to know what is happening on their streets. There needs to be a full investigation of law enforcement activities during the convention.”

But I'll bet that won't happen.

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