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Up to 18 journalists cited while covering St. Paul protest arrests

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More than a dozen journalists were cited and released in St. Paul Thursday night after they were penned in with…

More than a dozen journalists were cited and released in St. Paul Thursday night after they were penned in with a group of protesters arrested on a bridge.

According to attorney Paul Hannah, who worked with the news media, as many as 18 reporters and photographers were walking with a throng of people as they started across the bridge toward downtown, and toward the Republican National Convention, once the afternoon demonstration was winding down.  Officers followed the protesters, saying they did not have a permit to march, and used tear gas to try to break up the group, as video footage from WCCO-TV shows.

Once the protesters were on the bridge, which was blocked with snow plows, Hannah said, the authorities moved in to pen them.

Two Associated Press reporters and a St. Paul Pioneer Press photographer were among the trapped journalists, Hannah said. Unlike during an earlier confrontation between the police and demonstrators, this time reporters with credentials were not offered the chance to leave as the officers closed in.

Eventually, Hannah said, the journalists were apparently separated from the crowd, given paper citations for unlawful assembly and allowed to leave. All the reporters were released by about 10:40.

Hannah took calls this week from the news media hotline sponsored by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for journalists covering the convention.

That final wave of detainments caps a week in St. Paul that has seen several high-profile arrests of journalists, including Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, AP photographer Matt Rourke and  a New York Post freelance photographer. Hannah said it was unclear Friday whether the citations handed out Thursday, which he likened to a speeding ticket, would be dropped or if the reporters would have to choose between paying the fine and pursuing their cases in court.

Considering the relative calm of the protesters, the fact that it was the last night of the RNC and the ubiquity of journalists throughout the week covering the scene in St. Paul, Hannah said it was surprising to see the authorities insist on handing out citations Thursday to the news media: "The whole night was just a very unusual night."