Reporter Indicted For Covering Trump Inauguration Protests

from the free-press? dept

Back in January, we noted that six journalists had been arrested while covering protests in Washingto DC on inauguration day. It is troubling enough that this kind of thing has been happening with increasing frequency in the past few years (a bunch of journalists were arrested while covering the Ferguson protests, for example). And as bad (and unconstitutional) as it is to arrest these journalists, usually any charges are soon dropped. However, it appears that at least one of the reporters arrested for covering inauguration protests, Aaron Cantu of the Santa Fe Reporter, has now been indicted with prosecutors accusing him of participating in violence related to the protests:

Aaron Cant?, a staff writer at the Santa Fe Reporter, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he participated in a riot while working as a journalist during protests in Washington, DC on Inauguration Day.

Cant? faces eight felony counts?including inciting a riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot and five counts of destruction of property. The grand jury handed up the indictment last week.

From the news report, it’s not clear they actually have any evidence that Cantu was engaged in any of the destruction. Indeed, it sounds like he was over with other journalists observing the events (and wiping pepper spray from his eyes):

Cant? was not named specifically by prosecutors as the cause of any of the destruction, as some defendants were. Instead, the indictment named him as being present while the damage happened. The arrests have been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union, other civil rights groups and newspapers as overly broad and lacking hard evidence.

Video from the conservative media group The Rebel shows glimpses of Cant? off to the side of the protests with other journalists, washing what appears to be pepper spray from his eyes. He?s standing next to a conservative journalist as she narrates the scene.

The fact that he isn’t named specifically, and that the complaint is just that he was “present” is crazy. Of course he was present. He was doing his job, reporting on protests. Assuming this goes forward, Cantu should have very strong First Amendment defenses, and might consider suing the government for civil liberties violations.

While I’m hardly sympathetic to arguments by law enforcement when they round up large groups of people at protests that it’s difficult for them to determine who’s really a journalist and who is not, at least you can sort of understand how that might happen — even if you disapprove. But once the fog of the moment has passed it is absolutely bizarre for prosecutors to push forward with an indictment against someone who is clearly there as press.

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Comments on “Reporter Indicted For Covering Trump Inauguration Protests”

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Ninja (profile) says:

“But once the fog of the moment has passed it is absolutely bizarre for prosecutors to push forward with an indictment against someone who is clearly there as press. “

This is merely the next step of the totalitarian state. First they beat journalists and arrest them because “oops, couldn’t distinguish journalist from criminals” and in this step they both instill fear into journalists and sediment the idea that protesters are criminals/vandals. Then they prosecute journalists as if they were cooperating with the ‘criminals’ to further erode civil liberties while on another front the govt keeps insisting in deciding who is and who isn’t a journalist to receive any protection that will be worth nothing in the end.

Brace yourselves.

DannyB (profile) says:

The 12 Early Warning Signs of Fascism

The 12 Early Warning Signs of Fascism

  1. Powerful and continuing nationalism
  2. Disdain for human rights
  3. Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
  4. Rampant sexism
  5. Controlled mass media
  6. Obsession with national security
  7. Religion and government intertwined
  8. Corporate power protected
  9. Labor power suppressed
  10. Disdain for intellectual and the arts
  11. Obsession with crime and punishment
  12. Rampant cronyism and corruption
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The 12 Early Warning Signs of Fascism

Yes, each party has more than the other on that list but it balances well across both just about evenly.

Take for example #1. Some Republicans might be too much into it, while some Democrats might be too much out of it.

#4. Clearly a problem on the left side. It is okay to joke about a man being raped but no so when it comes to a female. It is also okay to excoriate and emasculate males while being verboten to even challenge a female on certain “female” issues.

#12… well lets just say its hard to see who is topping the other one there… that shit pile is stacked high on both sides to epic proportions. It is so ingrained in our culture that “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is seriously a thing! People willingly accept the corruption… well as long as it serves their political desires of course.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The 12 Early Warning Signs of Fascism

“it balances well across both just about evenly.”

Um, nope.

#1 is against the Right. #2 is against the Right. #3 is against the Right (especially Trump and his followers). Your reasoning on #4 is bullshit. The Right wants to restrict women’s freedom regarding their reproductive rights and doesn’t interfere with men’s rights at all. Trying to find a balance back towards empowering women isn’t being sexist towards men. #5 is seen in trying to control the media by shutting out journalists and calling them fake news, assaulting and arresting journalists as the Right have done. The Left does have allies in the media, but this is definitely weighted against the Right. #6 is against the Right. #7 is against the Right (Pence – “I’m a Christian, a Conservative and a Republican. In That Order.”). #8 is against both, but more so against the Right. #9 is definitely against the Right, which fights to destroy unions. #10 is against the Right. #11 is against the Right. #12 is against both.

You have a strange definition of “balanced.”

Anonymous Coward says:

We need to be very careful here. While we don’t want to see journalists getting arrested for reporting on current events, far too often journalists are actively involved in creating or exacerbating the news they’re supposed to be covering neutrally. It’s a cycle fed by their employers’ desire to amp up the drama to attract and retain more readers and/or viewers and thus reward such behavior.

Lets face it, the days of impartial news reporting are over (in the USA if not elsewhere). If a reporter is caught getting directly involved in the very thing they are supposed to be impartially reporting on then up the river they should go. The prosecution’s burden of proof, however, should be enthusiastically required by the courts (as always, everywhere, yet too often minimized).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It is impossible to be unbiased, just the act of selecting that which is news and that which is not is an act of bias.

For example. White person gets shot by the police in cold blood… not a story… black person gets shot… well that is just a fact.

You like those reporters because you liked their spin, same as why any other person likes a news reporter in most cases.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, both “sides” aren’t equally as bad. The lunatic fringe on the left is WAY worse than anything the right has to offer in terms of violence during protests. I’m just saying that this particular reporter may, or may not, be one of them depending on his actions during the riot.

Rushing to judgment in this case before the facts are in (i.e. evidence presented) is foolish and unwarranted. He might have just been standing around. He might have been throwing bricks. Why not wait and see for sure before making a big stink about “totalitarian states” and other such nonsense?

Talmyr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Except that the “lunatic fringe of the left” isn’t nearly as bad because a) it’s nowhere near as big, b) nowhere near as noisy, and c) not even remotely close to power.

And by the way, this is assuming that your “lunatic fringe of the left” doesn’t refer to people to the left of say, Piers Morgan (a rather right-wing European) but to the “being male is to be a rapist” crowd.

tom (profile) says:

Seems like the defense has video showing the suspect off to the side with other reporters. Wonder what the prosecution presented to the grand jury?

One of the more dangerous things in the US is a politician, elected or appointed, that is under pressure to “Do Something” about an issue. Sounds like the case here.

The prosecution will still have to convince 12 folks in a public trial.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Seems like the defense has video showing the suspect off to the side with other reporters. Wonder what the prosecution presented to the grand jury?”

Probably the video of him doing whatever it was that got him sprayed in the face with mace BEFORE he was “standing around”…

Notice that the guys next to him while he was filmed weren’t affected.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Exactly so. Reporters in Baltimore were attacked by police two years ago while standing on a public sidewalk with cameras, notebooks, etc. AND their “press” badges. They were characterized as “rioters” even though every single piece of evidence available proved that they were standing there documenting what was happening and were in no way participating, inciting, or anything else.

This is not an isolated incident. It’s part of a much larger pattern of aggression and intimidation directed against the press. And as such, it’s dangerous to the health of the country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tricky subject

I’m kind of mixed mind here. On one hand the chilling effect from arresting journalists is obvious and dangerous. On the other hand, journalists CAN end up inciting violence (even if they don’t actively participate)

The anecdote I have is from a riot at my college. It was homecoming weekend and a bunch of kids were drunk and screwing around. One of the local news teams was covering homecoming activities and started filming them, saying “Do something for the camera!” — there was a BBQ going on nearby and next thing you know they had busted up an old couch and burned it, then that wasn’t good enough for the camera crew (“Do something INTERESTING! You’ll be on TV!”) so these drunk college kids started rocking the news crew’s car – it ended up on its side and the door got ripped off & thrown into the bonfire as well.

At that point the cops showed up and started firing teargas and my smalltown college made the national news. NONE of that would have happened if the news crew hadn’t egged those kids on to “Do something interesting for the TV!”

Anonymous Coward says:

So we beat the hell out of you, toss you out into the middle of Central and Main, then point and shout “look what the popo did”. Playing with fire will get you burnt. We all know the press is infallible. He was an accessory to the fact, that much is certain. Come back with the rest of the story after justice is served, page 2.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Is the author

Correct! But this is a problem with ignorant civilians populating those grand juries.

If you have heard this line before…
“you are being judged by people to stupid to get out of jury duty”
then you get the idea.

The problem is that people do not know what it means to be Fully Informed Jury or to properly exercise their rights.

Most people are more concerned with one of their most worthless votes of all and that is voting for president than their local or state politicians or their power to tell tyranny to fuck right off in the court room through nullification.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Arresting Press Unconstitutional?!?!!?

It’s a matter of context. The article isn’t saying ‘They’re the press, it’s unconstitutional to arrest them’, it’s noting that the evidence against the reporter is weak at best, suggesting that what they were arrested for, simply reporting on what was going on and/or being in the general area would be bad and/or unconstitutional.

If simply being in the general vicinity of a riot is enough to get you charged as though you were participating then reporting on one, unless you’re doing so from a distance becomes a huge risk.

Anonymous Coward says:

A common feature of many street demonstrations throughout practically the entire world is that many of the “protesters” are really undercover cops, as well as informers working for the police.

The fact that the government has singled out this particular reporter for prosecution might suggest that he said something “inciteful” to a protester who was really a cop in disguise.

Arrests at unruly demonstrations are essentially meaningless, as police typically over-arrest and under-prosecute. But to target a journalist covering a public event, and press on with the prosecution, the authorities should know that they’d better have a rock-solid case against him, or expect massive embarrassment at a minimum.

It’s possible, of course, that the authorities feel that the press is so intensely anti-government (anti-Trump) that they have nothing left to lose.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yes, sadly, that’s the world we live in. If they do have evidence that this guy broke the law, I think the jury will “throw the book” at him. Eight felonies, right? That should land him a decade or better in prison. And, that should serve as an example to dissuade others from participating in violent activities. Juries are made up of legitimate citizens registered to vote in most states, right? And the same voters put President Donald J. Trump in office. Now the voters will get a chance to vote to punish those who would participate in violent riots. I’ll bet this guy is worried, and he should be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Technically...

These kind of “sit down protests” always select a busy thoroughfare and pick the most obtrusive choke point they can find. It’s a mixture of protest and “pain compliance” that targets and victimizes the public at large. These quasi-terrorism strategies were largely crafted by Saul Alinsky, a 1960s anarchist/activist who Hillary Clinton wrote her college thesis on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Technically...

Yeah, that lonely sidewalk on the UC Davis campus is a major choke point for the busy thoroughfare and was the obvious choice for the students to create an obstruction. Said obstruction would certainly cause chaos and a massive disturbance, it therefore needed to be attacked in the most aggressive nature possible, they would have used a tank if they had one because they were afraid for their lives. Definitely terrorism right there as the other students were terrified … just look at those photos (LOL) they were terrified of the campus renta-cop

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