Journalists arrested at '08 RNC settle lawsuit

Nicole Lozare | Newsgathering | Feature | October 3, 2011

A settlement was announced today in the case of three journalists arrested during the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minnesota who later filed a federal suit against the U.S. Secret Service and the police departments of Minneapolis and St. Paul for what they call unlawful arrests while they were trying to cover a protest.

The settlement includes $100,000 in compensation and an agreement by the St. Paul Police Department to develop and implement a training program to teach officers how to handle the media, especially when the press is covering demonstrations, according to Anjana Samant, senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

"The amount was driven by principle," Samant said. "It was a payment for their anger and frustration and the anxiety that was caused. It's an acknowledgement that their Constitutional rights were violated."

Democracy Now! news hour host Amy Goodman and producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar will split the financial compensation. Goodman said she will donate her share to Democracy Now!, which is an independent radio and TV news organization. Kouddous is currently out of the country on assignment and Salazar has left the news organization and is in graduate school, according to Goodman.

"It's a very serious message to police departments across the country," Goodman said. "When journalists are handcuffed and abused, so is democracy. We should not have to get a record when we put things on the record.”

Goodman and two producers were among the more than 40 journalists arrested during the RNC convention while covering the protests outside the St. Paul convention center. The two producers said they were bloodied in their encounters with the officers. The charges against all the journalists arrested were later dropped.

The Center for Constitutional Rights will have an input in the training programs developed by the two police departments. Per the settlement agreement, first drafts of the programs are due to the center for approval by the end of the year, according to Samant.