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Reporters arrested during Elian protests

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    NMU         FLORIDA         Press at Home & Abroad         Apr 25, 2000    

Reporters arrested during Elian protests

  • At least four reporters were arrested while covering disturbances in Miami following the Elian Gonzalez removal, with one photographer being charged with “throwing a deadly missile” after police claim she threw a rock at them to photograph the commotion it caused.

Among the hundreds of protesters arrested after Elian Gonzalez was seized by United States federal agents from his uncle’s home in Miami on April 23 were several reporters covering the scene. In addition, several journalists reported threats of arrest, harassment or assault by police officers.

The protests began just after Elian was whisked from the house, as over 300 people began to set fires and block traffic. Many were arrested on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to attempted murder.

Carolyn Cole, a Los Angeles Times photographer, was arrested on a felony charge after authorities alleged she threw rocks at police and then photographing the commotion. She was officially charged with “throwing a deadly missile,” paid a $7,500 bond and was released Saturday, according to The Miami Herald.

“Carolyn Cole was covering the protests in Miami as a news photographer, not participating in them, and her photos published in the Times make that clear,” Times editor Michael Parks said in an interview in his newspaper. “In arresting Cole and detaining her for more than eight hours before releasing her on bond, Miami police prevented her from continuing to report a story of national importance. We see this as an abridgement of the people’s right to know under the Constitution. We will ask for the immediate dismissal of the charge against her.”

The Times reported that, if convicted, Cole could face up to five years in prison.

The Miami Herald reported that two NBC News freelancers, soundman Gustavo Moller and cameraman Tony Zumbado, were intercepted by federal agents on the lawn of the house as the raid was beginning. Their cables were yanked out, and Moller was struck near his eye with an agent’s gun.

“A goon all dressed in black put a shotgun (to my head), and he hit me with the point of the rifle and ordered me to sit down while holding the gun,” he told the Herald.

Several other reporters became the target of the protestors’ rage and police aggression when an angry crowd tore down the CNN tent set up on the grounds of the house. Police then told reporters they could no longer protect them and asked them to remove all press booths and clear out of the area. Those who stayed faced arrest, and probable loss of equipment.

NBC’s Bruce Bernstein, Alberto Durruthy, who was working for ABC, and Herald photographer Raul Rubeira were all taken into custody as well on Saturday. Rubiera was charged with disorderly conduct after snapping a photo of a police officer when told to step back from the sidewalk. Durruthy was arrested, but not charged, when he allegedly blocked an officer trying to take another person into a patrol wagon. Bernstein was charged with battery on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence. According to the Herald, details of the incident involving Bernstein were unknown.

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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