Update: On July 8, 2020, Murphy F. Robinson III, Denver’s executive director of Public Safety, responded to the Reporters Committee’s letter, stating that “Denver’s law enforcement officers are trained to respect First Amendment rights, and any intentional violation of such rights will not be condoned or tolerated under my leadership.” Robinson’s letter noted that the city will strongly consider protocols suggested in the Reporters Committee’s letter as officials develop new policies, trainings and procedures related to law enforcement management of mass demonstrations.
On June 16, the Reporters Committee denounced police attacks on credentialed journalists in Denver, Colorado, and called on city officials to educate law enforcement about their legal obligation to protect members of the press.
In a letter addressed to Denver’s mayor, police chief and public safety director, the Reporters Committee emphasizes that officers have no legal immunity when they attack the press and urges city officials to implement First Amendment training for law enforcement personnel. The letter, co-signed by 40 media and press freedom organizations, also proposes protocols that would help safeguard press freedom protections, ranging from the continued exemption of the press from any curfews to the public disclosure of police incidents involving journalists.
In Denver, among other incidents, one photographer was struck by two pepper balls, which injured him and shattered his press pass. Another credentialed reporter wrote on Twitter that he was hit by a series of what he believes were foam bullets.
Press freedom violations — ranging from arrests to physical assaults — have increased nationwide since protests over police violence and racial injustice surged after a white Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, a Black man, on May 26.
The letter to Denver officials resembles previous letters the Reporters Committee sent to leaders in New York City and Minnesota, which have each seen many press freedom violations since protests began.