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Journalists swept up in mass arrests during World Bank-IMF protests

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Newsgathering         Sep 27, 2002    

Journalists swept up in mass arrests during World Bank-IMF protests

  • Protests in downtown Washington led to arrests of more than 600 protesters and a handful of reporters and photographers

Journalists covering protests in the nation’s Capital Sept. 27 were swept up in the mass arrests of 649 individuals, handcuffed and detained for several hours.

Several credentialed journalists in the Freedom Plaza and Pershing Square area in downtown Washington reported that around 400 people were corralled by police into the southwest corner of the square mid-morning. The demonstrators were protesting during meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. They were handcuffed, placed on waiting metro buses and taken to a police holding facility in southwest Washington to be processed.

“I’m press!, I’m press!,” Stefany Moore, a United Press International intern said she told police officers. “One of them said: ‘You had your chance [to leave]’; one of them said: ‘I don’t care.'”

Moore, along with reporters Christina Pino-Marina and Michael Bruno, sat among approximately 35 protesters on a bus along with several others claiming to be from independent media organizations.

Bruno said a colleague informed him that Pino-Marina was being arrested. Bruno said he saw his colleague bent over at the waist being handcuffed by an officer while another officer had her in a headlock.

Bruno, who had distinguished himself with several strips of duct tape on his jacket and backpack marked “News,” told the officers he and Pino-Marina and were reporters at which point police arrested him, he said.

His colleagues in the square as well as a photographer and reporter on the bus with press credentials finagled their way out of police custody, they reported.

“Not all of [the officers] were in agreement that reporters should be detained,” Bruno said.

Pino-Marina was able to call her editor by mobile phone with the help of another handcuffed detainee to dial. After a few hours on the bus, the three reporters were escorted to an office where paperwork was filed stating they were arrested but not charged, Moore said.

Other reports of media arrests include photographer Larry Towell, of New York-based agency Magnum Photo and at least two area student journalists.

If reporters are “still there when they start to make mass arrests than they are part of the mass arrests,” said D.C. police officer Wyseola Smith.

“I didn’t suspect it would happen … we has our press passes and we were clearly with the press,” Pino-Marina said. “They had no reason to detain us at all.”


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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