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Reporter arrested during Miami trade talk demonstrations

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Reporter arrested during Miami trade talk demonstrations

  • Miami New Times staff writer Celeste Fraser Delgado was arrested and kept in a correctional center overnight, but charges against her were later dropped.

Dec. 2, 2003 — A reporter for the Miami New Times was arrested and incarcerated after interviewing protesters 12 blocks from the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference in Miami last month.

Celeste Fraser Delgado, a staff writer for the alternative weekly, was charged with one count of failure to obey a lawful command and one count of resisting arrest without violence. She spent the night of Nov. 20 in the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami, and was released the following afternoon. Both charges were dropped.

“I kept asking them, ‘What am I being detained for?’ But they wouldn’t say,” Delgado told The Associated Press, in a Nov. 25 story. “In the paddy wagon we could hear the police officers arguing about what they were going to charge us with.”

Delgado, 36, says she repeatedly identified herself to police as a credentialed reporter. She has since chronicled her run-in with Miami-Dade County police for the cover story in this week’s Miami New Times. The first-person narrative is titled “Jailhouse Crock.”

“She was arrested and detained as a public citizen walking down a public street,” said Times Managing Editor Jean Carey. “By virtue of the fact that the charges were almost immediately dropped, the charges were clearly unfounded.

“We’re probably not going to be content on letting the matter drop,” Carey added. She said the newspaper’s in-house lawyers are looking into the incident.

Police officials in Miami declined to comment on Delgado’s arrest.

The Free Trade Area talks, a meeting of 34 countries to discuss the elimination of trade barriers in the Western Hemisphere, drew nearly 50,000 protestors to downtown Miami from Nov. 16-21. More than 2,500 officers from 40 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies were trained in anticipation of violent demonstrations. At the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle in 1999, rioters caused nearly $3 million in damage to the city.

According to the Miami Police Department, approximately 140 people were arrested throughout the week. It is believed that Delgado was the only working journalist to have been arrested.

“A lot of reporters weren’t allowed mobility into the city,” Delgado told News Media Update. “As long as I’m not obstructing police activity, I have a right to be there.”

Delgado was not among the 24 reporters who took part in the Miami Police Department’s embed program, which provided journalists covering the demonstrations the chance to travel with and work alongside law enforcement officials. The Miami New Times did not embed any of its reporters.

“As reporters, we felt that there was nothing it would add,” Delgado said. “We felt we didn’t need police approval to go into public areas of the city.

“I think the motivation (of the embed program) was for public officials to control the media,” she added. “So, perhaps it did work.”

Media accounts of the demonstrations showed a small percentage of protesters assaulting police and destroying property, while the press also reported on law enforcement authorities using heavy-handed tactics in suppressing outspoken yet peaceful demonstrators.

JL

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