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Democracy Now! Producers Violently Arrested at RNC

September 2nd, 2008 by Dean Jansen

Friend of Miro, Amy Goodman, host of the progressive news program Democracy Now!, was arrested yesterday at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Two of her producers were violently arrested before Amy rushed to the scene and was also taken in and charged. They have since been released, but none of the charges have been dropped.

The Democracy Now! producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, were violently arrested before Amy arrived. The first video is from Nicole Salazar’s camera; she screams “I’m press. Press. Press!” as she and her camera are thrown to the ground. Her nose was bloodied when she was simultaneously stepped on and dragged in a parking lot. The second video clearly shows Goodman’s arrest as she rushes to the scene and peacefully asks to speak with a commanding officer.

All three journalists have been released, but the felony and misdemeanor charges have yet to be be dropped. You can see the above footage with detailed commentary from Amy, Nicole, and Sharif on today’s edition of Democracy Now! (Tuesday, September 2nd). I recommend subscribing to the broadcast quality version of Democracy Now!

Traditional media has largely failed to give proper attention to much of what’s happening outside the convention centers earlier in Denver and this week in St. Paul. There have been other journalists and members of the press arrested, many reports of unnecessarily abusive riot police, officers who aren’t wearing visible identification and refuse to identify themselves, mass arrests of protesters, and so on.

This disturbing lack of coverage reinforces the importance of an open online video/TV system. When the more popular (i.e. mainstream/traditional) shows are more accessible and open, it becomes far easier to integrate independent media into everyday users’ media diets. When things are more closed and less standard, viewers are far more likely to watch the majority of their online video through a single gateway — we know how bad that is for diversity and independence in media.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be talking more and more about openness in online video, what it means, and how to foster it.

PS. Good work and good luck to Amy, the DN! gang, and all the others in St. Paul who are acting as watchdogs and documenting the action. Stay safe!

15 Responses to “Democracy Now! Producers Violently Arrested at RNC”

  1. [...] 3, 2008 · No Comments “The Democracy Now! producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, were violently arrested before Amy arrived. The [...]

  2. Sir_Sid says:

    What were they charged with?
    Good luck to the whole Democracy team in dealing with this

  3. Dean Jansen says:

    “Kouddous and Salazar face pending charges of suspicion of felony riot, while Goodman has been officially charged with obstruction of a legal process and interference with a ‘peace officer.’”

  4. Jason Brower says:

    I would really have to look at both sides before I personally support one side or the other.
    To me, it sounds like there needs to be a better way to certify that you are a person wanting to tell others what happened a.k.a. “press”. Simply walking in is a threat to everyone in that place. Not to mention obstruction to a political meeting. (Hence “Obstruction of legal process.”) This is a Republican Convention for, well, Republicans.
    None the less, you still have the right to complain about it.

  5. Vallerey says:

    what a shame!i support entirely amy and the friends of Democracy NOW!

  6. Dean Jansen says:

    Jason,

    I couldn’t disagree with you more here. The footage clearly shows an alarmed woman asking the police a question and then being bent over and arrested, which is the story that Amy tells. I’m not saying that video never lies, but the folks at Democracy Now! are not amateurs (not that there’s anything wrong with being an amateur journalist). They are respected reporters who have been covering events like this for years. It might be different if they were three random folks who had no reputation backing their accusations, but that’s not the case here.

    Furthermore the Democracy Now! journalists had large badges around their necks, clearly identifying them as press that was allowed inside the convention floor. While there are some people in St. Paul who are out to tip over trash cans and break windows, Amy and co clearly aren’t those sorts of folks. I think it’s naive to say that walking in a public place, where newsworthy events that that you’re trying to capture on video are taking place, is a threat to everyone surrounding you. Having police be able to stomp out legal journalism in places of political dissent is the larger threat here.

  7. Matt says:

    Jason’s correct.

    Unless you personally know someone, having large badges around your neck is meaningless in this situation. ID is meant for use a security checkpoints were time can be taken to authenticate them. Such credentials can not be authenticated in a confrontation, and they should not be defered too in such a situation since they are readily forged. For one of the ultimate examples, days before 9/11 the leader of the Northern Alliance was assinated by a Al Queda suicide hit team posing as video journalists — the bomb was in the camera. The police weren’t trying to stomp out legal journalism, they just knew there was someone who wasn’t following their orders in a tense situation.

    I’ve watched the video before — Amy disobedied the orders of an officer to not cross a certain point during a tense situation. There was no reason to talk to a supervisor at that place or time, that’s why we have judges — to decide on matters in a calm and dispassionate manner.

    She exercised poor judgement and was arrested. I’ve assited with several and witnessed more arrests over the years — you don’t hand someone cuffs and ask them to nicely put the cuffs on themselves. If someone shows a glimmer of non-cooperation you use force to bring the situation to an immediate end before it escalates into a situation more dangerous to any party involved.

    It’s fair to question the “militarization” of our police forces, something not in the American tradition. Some of this, though, is legitimately being forced by a desire to handle situations like violent protesters without escalating the use of force too far. Think of Kent State as an example of when the wrong people with the wrong training are put into a stressful situation — the police are acting more firmly then we may have 40 years ago, but in a manner designed to head off the use of force by both sides before it escalates to life threatening danger. The increasing use of riot-gear police to contain protests is an unfortunate result of increasingly violent left wing protests by people essentially throwing a tantrum to attract attention to themselves; in this respect it’s similiar to having to surround our federal courthouses with bomb barriers due to the escalation in the level of violence by right wing zealots.

    While there are plenty of good examples of an overly militarized response such as the Branch Davidians, or the sub-machine gun toting officer taking Elian Gonzales from his uncle, there are also recent examples of old fashion, low-key, and brass balled law enforcement such as the arrests of the tax dissenters in New Hampshire last year. So it’s not a simplistic picture of law enforcement mindlessly militarizing; they may not always choose what seems the best options, but the options they choose from are being developed in response to the anti-social behavior of others.

  8. Dean says:

    I am not convinced that we’re seeing “increasingly violent left wing protests” — riots and protests have been happening for a long time. They don’t seem to be getting more or less violent. I just don’t want people intimidated into complacency. Our government makes a lot of really poor decisions… we need to be able to go out and dissent safely (and record/report on that dissent).

    I doubt that I’ll change either of you guys’ minds (or vice-versa), but I’m glad we can express our opinions openly in this space.

  9. L Wright says:

    I can not believe in 2008 that we the people of the United States have allowed the government all of the powers that they execute over the people! The RNC, Bush, Cheney, McCain-Palin agenda is simple. It to scare people that the RNC way is the only way!

    I can not wait till the day comes when George W, Cheney, Rumsfield, Rice and all of the other traitors of the republic are arrested and tried for war crimes! That day will come and to think the war in Iraq is all about oil and the battle in Afghanistan is all about heroin! No one wants to admit it but it is the truth!

    Karl Rove and his lieutenants are running the McCain-Palin campaign for the White House and it’s sad to see our country being tricked once again to allow a republican anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The Republic as we know it is gone and next on the list will be to enslave Americans and reeducate them to believe the so-called republican agenda of being conservatives, when all along their just gangsters and crooks!

  10. Louis Mendez says:

    I am outraged that a National Treasure like Amy Goodman is treated in such a manner. We are truly living in a police state. Now more than ever we need a free untethered Press Corps. We need our Bill of Rights and our Constitution defended.

    Law enforcement needs more supervision and their powers should be limited.

    • log splitter says:

      I totally agree, without proper supervision people with power could have fatal consequences on some lives. I hate to say it but it I think that it is a real threat.

  11. Johnnie says:

    I would be one of the first to be angered if these incidents are real, unfortunately these two videos don’t show the entire situation or context. in fact, the second video has the voice of an officer warning calmly to not cross a line or that they would be arrested.

    I would imagine horrible attacks being made by some protesters or homegrown extremist groups if police didn’t show an aggressive posture and no nonsense security policies.

    if this is real, we need better evidence.

    but on the other side of the coin, all reports of police abuse should be taken seriously, no one should ever be so naive to think that America is some how immune to corruption and pretend that as a country we have never made huge mistakes.

    the money we spend on the military and on unnecessary / immoral military actions could be used to build more schools and hospitals, research and implement alternative fuels, making life better here at home.

    right wing wackos preach complacency while complacency only makes those happy that are rich and that are the “preferred” ones in their own minds (white, Christian or otherwise). non complacency founded America and being complacent only makes you so tolerant or oblivious to corruption that you won’t do a thing until the American government is as corrupt and ruthless as the Nazis – which may not happen for years or even centuries, but historically all governments degrade into corruption. all it takes are small changes like those being pressed forward by bush and those trying to preserve the American caste system. our founders would be angered to know that loyalists still live today in the form of racist conservatives.

    and those racist conservatives are a ball and chain dragging down the liberals that created this great country. we need to cut them lose where ever they stand.

  12. Ed Reichert says:

    wow… kinda reminds me of the DNC back in 1968, or what happened in Selma Al. when the police used “justified force” to have police dogs attack children… I’m sorry but the police there looked more like hired thugs then people I want protecting me and my family. one of the postings mentioned it is needed because in afganistan a terrist posed as a reporter and with a bomb hidden in a camera killed people, well I thought the RNC took place in the USA… It is really sad that in the country where freedom of speech is so highly regarded, this stuff still takes place.

  13. ben says:

    There are many other stories of police targeting independent journalists during the protests. Ironically, Democracy Now is one of the best places to hear about it.

    One scary story is the preemptive house raids which took place even before the convention began. I-Witness video had their house raided by riot police on 8/30 (http://seattle.indymedia.org/en/2008/09/268597.shtml). I-Witness video is a group of journalists whose footage from the 2004 RNC protests exonerated about 400 arrestees because it conflicted with the sworn testimonies of the NYC police. What reason would police have to raid a house of journalists? The only one I can see is that they wanted to get a little pay back and to try to intimidate them.

    Finally, on the issue of violence which always dominates the discussion around large demonstrations. Let’s examine what the most militant, extremist protesters wanted to do during the week. They clearly stated their goal for the week on http://www.nornc.org, which was to shut down the RNC by blockading the bridges and roads in St. Paul. Now, you may or may not agree with that, but it is definitely non-violent civil disobedience and labeling it “violent” is not accurate. However, traditional media outlets love to tell it that way because the “violent protesters fight riot cops” story is sensational and plays well.

  14. @Johnie: Democratic government in USA waged the same number of wars as Republican governments. Obama wouldn’t do any better in this regards (compare with Clinton) for the sole reason that the US economy is dependent of other countries’ usage of the US dollar. Oil isn’t the main objective, it’s a means for an end: all countries in the world must use the US dollar to purchase oil, meaning all of them MUST sell goods to the USA to get the dollars they need for purchasing oil. Any president wishing to break this cycle would throw the USA in a decades-long depression, as the unused dollars which would start flowing back into USA would cause uncontrolled inflation for who knows how long. Since no republican or democrat has the courage to face this, none will do it, ever. Expect wars for as long as the USA has a strong military, republicans and democrats presidents pretty much alike.

    @L Wright: I for “war crimes” you mean mass murder, genocide and the like, then I think I’ll be waiting for the time when all the Roe vs. Wade supporters are tried and arrested for war crimes. Roughly 2 million babies assassinated every year since 1973. Thrice the number of people killed in World War 2, and counting! Left-wing ideology, even the “softer” approaches, is a killing machine like no other in history.

    So what if Conservatism isn’t good either? Liberalism is tenfold worse. Between two evils, the only rational choice is for the lesser one.

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