On June 29, the Reporters Committee expressed grave concern with U.S. Park Police officers’ recent attack on an Australian news crew during protests outside the White House.
In a letter addressed to leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, the Reporters Committee emphasized the importance of news reporting on police activity and the severity of the First Amendment violation when police infringe on newsgathering. The letter, sent for the Committee’s consideration as it convenes a June 29 public hearing on Park Police attacks against peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square, called for federal law enforcement agencies to implement new protocols to protect reporters and ensure that the public is informed.
On June 1, Australian journalists Amelia Brace and Tim Myers were attacked by Park Police while reporting live on an Australian morning show from Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.
About 25 minutes before D.C.’s 7 p.m. curfew, officers began dispersing protesters using batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang explosives. As documented in video footage, U.S. Park Police turned toward Brace and Myers, who were clearly identifiable as journalists, with one officer swinging a riot shield at Myers’ stomach and punching his camera as Brace shouted that they were members of the media. Another Park Police officer swung a baton at Brace’s back as the two reporters attempted to move away.
The Reporters Committee’s letter emphasized that police officers do not have legal immunity when they violate clearly established rights under the First Amendment.
“[W]e stand ready to work with the Committee and with the relevant agencies to ensure that brazen First Amendment violations like the arrest or assault of a journalist engaged in lawful newsgathering do not recur,” the Reporters Committee’s letter states.