An additional four journalists have been charged with felonies following their arrests on Inauguration Day, bringing the total now to six.
Web series producer Jack Keller, independent journalist Matt Hopard, independent photojournalist Shay Horse and freelance journalist Aaron Cantu were all arrested where protesters clashed with the police at 12th and L streets where property was being damaged. Alex Rubenstein of RT America and Evan Engel of Vocativ were charged with felonies earlier this week.
All six have been arraigned and released to await further hearings.
According to The Guardian,
None of the arrest reports for the six journalists makes any specific allegations about what any of them are supposed to have done wrong. Keller’s report, which also covers the arrests of an unknown number of unidentified other people, includes a note that a police vehicle was vandalized. “I had absolutely nothing to do with the vandalism,” said Keller.
Reports on the arrests of five of the six journalists contain identical language alleging that “numerous crimes were occurring in police presence”. They state that windows were broken, fires were lit and vehicles were damaged. “The crowd was observed enticing a riot by organizing, promoting, encouraging and participating in acts of violence in furtherance of the riot,” the police reports said.
The U.S. attorney’s office is following protocol and addressing the evidence with the charges.
The US attorney’s office for Washington DC, which is prosecuting those arrested, declined to comment on the journalists’ specific cases but said it was continuing to review evidence from the day with the police.
“Based on the facts and circumstances, we determined that probable cause existed to support the filing of felony rioting charges,” William Miller, a spokesman for the office, said in a statement. “As in all of our cases, we are always willing to consider additional information that people bring forward.”
Regardless, the likelihood that the prosecutor’s office pursues indictments through to trial against the journalists unless there is clear evidence showing they participated in any way, remains to be seen. The Committee to Protect Journalists has come to the aid of the six and insist the charges should be dropped, stating that they are “inappropriate.”
In the meantime, any hue and cry about journalists being under attack are premature. The legal system will sort out the culpability of each of the six, as they will with the other 200 who were arrested for rioting on Inauguration Day.