Journalists must not be detained while doing their job
USA TODAY NETWORK
Gustavo Martinez Contreras, a reporter at the Asbury Park Press who covers communities at the Jersey Shore for our USA TODAY NETWORK, was arrested and detained while covering a protest Monday night.
Martinez Contreras was filming police arresting demonstrators who were, according to authorities, violating an 8 p.m. curfew in Asbury Park; his video was streamed live on Twitter. He was transported to the Belmar Police Department's headquarters, issued a summons for failing to obey an order to disperse and released early Tuesday.
Tuesday morning, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced that Martinez Contreras' charges had been dropped and that his office would conduct an inquiry.
The editorial continues below the tweet.
Regardless of the curfew, Martinez Contreras should not have been charged. We believe — firmly:
Journalists should not be roughed up.
Journalists should not be detained.
Journalists should not be arrested.
Journalists should not be charged.
Journalists should be allowed to cover demonstrations.
Journalists are allowed to cover demonstrations.
Demonstrators are allowed to protest.
We do not condone violence. We do not condone looting.
We also do not condone aggressive police tactics that cross the line and become brutality.
We do not condone hate. We mourn George Floyd. And Ahmaud Arbery. And all the dozens of other African-Americans who have died at the hands of police.
We do salute police — like those officers in Camden, in Jersey City and in Newark, as well as dozens of other communities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and metropolitan New York — who have worked with demonstrators to maintain peace. We salute officers who've joined in protests.
We also salute our colleagues, across our own USA TODAY NETWORK and those who work for other outlets, who are bravely covering these demonstrations amid a pandemic. As Jerry Carino, a columnist at the Asbury Park Press, wrote, Martinez Contreras was not alone on Monday:
A reporter and photographer for The News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware, and a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer were detained by police for two hours while covering protests in Philadelphia.
A Cincinnati Enquirer reporter was handcuffed and detained while covering a protest in Cincinnati.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter was arrested while covering a protest in Atlanta.
Student-newspaper reporters from Ohio State University were pepper sprayed by cops in Columbus after repeatedly identifying themselves as news media.
An Australian television reporter and her cameraman were accosted by police in Washington, D.C.
A CNN correspondent covering rioting in Minneapolis was arrested during a live broadcast.
All of these are deeply regrettable.
This is a moment to reflect on the power of the First Amendment, which is always our north star:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
We will remain vigilant. We will not be intimidated. We will report the news, as the First Amendment guarantees.