A Charlotte Observer religion reporter recently arrested while covering a "Moral Mondays" protest before the Raleigh General Assembly will fight to have the charges dropped at his August court date.
Veteran reporter Tim Funk was arrested on June 10 and charged with trespassing and failure to disperse. Funk was one of over 80 people arrested at the protest that day. The demonstration was part of a weekly protest led by the North Carolina NAACP that began in April after the legislature passed a series of bills that slashed benefits for citizens and raised taxes.
Observer Managing Editor Cheryl Carpenter said on Monday that the newspaper has secured counsel for Funk and will argue for a dismissal of the two charges in Wake County District Court on Aug. 13.
“Right now we’re focused on getting the situation cleared up,” said Carpenter. “Our goal is to deal with Tim’s personal situation first to make sure that we give our best defense to him.”
In video footage of the arrest posted by StoryOfAmerica.org, Funk was wearing his press credentials around his neck when officers pulled him from the crowd and cuffed him with zip ties. Funk did not resist arrest. As officers led him away, Funk can be heard saying, “But I’m a reporter, I was just interviewing people,” and “Oh please, please, please, this is not right.” A week, the footage of Funk's arrest posted on YouTube has garnered nearly 10,000 views.
Jeff Weaver, police chief at the Raleigh General Assembly, said in an interview that officers warned the crowd three times to leave the building before making arrests.
Funk remained to interview a group of about 60 demonstrators who had chosen to stay and wait for arrest when officers separated the reporter from the crowd. After Funk was cuffed, an officer carried his reporter's notebook, pen and bag as another officer led him away to a squad car.
According to Weaver, Funk was the only reporter who failed to comply with police orders. The Daily Kos reported that protesters near Funk tried to explain to officers that the journalist was not a participant in the protest.
Local newspaper The Wilson Times wrote in an editorial on June 12 that the arrest was a breach of Funk's First Amendment rights.
“Funk found himself handcuffed not because he wanted to defy authority, but because he wanted to witness the mass arrest,” the editorial stated. “By arresting a reporter…police have opened themselves up to more scrutiny over whether such measures are necessary.”