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Reporters Committee Hotline provides free 24-hour legal aid to journalists covering the 2016 Republican National Convention

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Updated July 16; check back for further updates, including during the convention   Journalists’ RNC Hotline 216-861-7694   •…

Reporters Committee Hotline provides free 24-hour legal aid to
journalists covering the 2016 Republican National Convention


  • Anyone arrested at convention-related events will be held in the Justice Center Complex downtown (1200 Ontario St.)
  • The municipal court will accept cash, Visa, MasterCard and Discover Card for posting bond, which varies depending on the charge.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the media law firm of Baker & Hostetler LLP will provide pro bono legal assistance to journalists covering the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland through a 24-hour hotline. Volunteer attorneys will be available to advise reporters who are arrested or experience other problems with law enforcement while covering the convention, the political protests or related events.

The hotline will be in operation from Sunday, July 17, 2016, through the end of the convention. The phone number is 216-861-7694. If that for some reason is not available, a backup number is 216-798-5703. You may also call the regular hotline operated by the Reporters Committee by calling (800) 336-4243, emailing or tweeting @rcfp. Mike Farrell is the attorney coordinating calls for Baker & Hostetler, and Gregg Leslie will be monitoring the hotline for the Reporters Committee.

We will also be coordinating activities with other groups monitoring convention events, including the National Press Photographers Association, The National Lawyer’s Guild, and the ACLU.

BE PREPARED. Disturbances occurring at political conventions in the past sometimes have resulted in mass arrests during which reporters have been taken into custody. The hotline is part of the Reporters Committee’s effort to address problems experienced by reporters as a result of undue restrictions on access or while covering demonstrations and other events occurring in and around Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. This flier provides guidelines to follow in the event of a disturbance and provides our best information at the time it was prepared. This information is subject to change; for the most recent version, go to .

Always carry with you two forms of identification: (1) your convention credential, any police-issued press pass or other documentation (such as police-issued press passes from prior events or your employer-issued I.D.) of your status as a professional journalist, and (2) a government-issued photo identification card. If you are detained without a government-issued I.D., the police will hold you until you can be fingerprinted and positively identified, a process that can take several hours and makes you ineligible for immediate release on bond. Also carry cash with you (see “Arrest & Release” below).

Make it visually obvious you are a member of the press. Any journalist wearing a helmet during a protest should have the word “PRESS” prominently displayed on the helmet itself. (However, helmets will be prohibited inside the Event Zone of the downtown area.) Indeed, it is advisable to always wear a hat and/or shirt that display the word “PRESS” prominently. This doesn’t confer any special legal status, but could avoid an arrest if an officer would otherwise assume you’re a protester. If an event becomes the subject of law enforcement activity, the best way to avoid being arrested is to report on those activities in a manner that does not obstruct the law enforcement activity, and to follow all police orders. Do not walk through a police line without first showing your press pass and obtaining permission.

The City of Cleveland and Cleveland Police have also adopted an Event Zone regulation (also available at which regulates a wide variety of issues in many areas of downtown Cleveland, including the official protest parade route and speaking platforms in public parks. One restriction in the “Event Zone” itself is that gas masks are prohibited, and police officials have confirmed that they do not intend to exempt journalists from this restriction. Almost anything resembling a weapon will also be prohibited in the Event Zone, and especially in the smaller Secret Service-regulated Security Zone.

POLICE INFORMATION. The Secret Service, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Cleveland Police Department, and many other law enforcement agencies will all have a presence in and around convention-related locations, including the Quicken Loans Arena, other convention sites nearby, and the designated parade route and demonstration sites. In the event of any incident between the media and the police, you should immediately call the hotline.

During the convention, Cleveland police will operate from their regular headquarters in the Justice Center Complex, 1200 Ontario St, in downtown Cleveland, which is close to the Quicken Loans Arena, the protest parade route, and the public parks that will stage protests. Journalists can stay in touch with the latest developments on police activities through the Cleveland Police Twitter account (@CLEpolice) and blog (

Journalists and those seeking information on journalists who may have been detained should contact the hotline, as we will attempt to maintain contact with representatives from the police department and mayor’s office.

ACCESS. Access to the Quicken Loans Arena, other convention sites nearby, and particular areas within those sites will be highly regulated. RNC-issued credentials are required to enter the Secure Zone around the convention site. Do not expect to be permitted to enter any areas inside or in the vicinity of the convention sites or elsewhere that are closed by police for security reasons. And, again, do not walk through a police line without first showing your press pass and obtaining permission. Press credentials other than those issued by the RNC, e.g., those issued by a city police department or city or state press association or other event, may be recognized in some places but not others. The City of Cleveland has no plans to issue press credentials for the event.

DETENTION, ARREST & RELEASE. In the event police detain you during a disturbance, remain calm and obey instructions. In addition, (1) notify the arresting officer that you are a news reporter and show your credentials; (2) ask that a supervisor or captain be notified that a reporter is being detained; and (3) seek permission to call the hotline attorney at your earliest opportunity. Local law enforcement agencies have advised their officers not to interfere with working journalists, provided the journalists do not commit separate infractions or interfere with police operations or safety. Identifying yourself as a news reporter may reduce the likelihood of arrest, and may facilitate your release if you are caught up in a mass arrest. If you are covering the activities of a crowd that invites arrest and want to avoid being arrested along with them, move to the periphery of the activity so you can readily detach yourself should that prove necessary.

If you are arrested for disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly, disturbing the peace, failure to follow a police order, or any other non-felony infraction, the quickest way to get back onto the streets to continue reporting is to politely let the booking personnel know you are a reporter, cooperate and, assuming bond is necessary, post bond. You should be cooperative during this process, but remember that anything you say may be used against you.

You will be taken to the jail in the downtown Justice Center Complex, at 1200 Ontario St. Again, identify yourself to booking personnel as a journalist. If you’re not processed on a priority basis, ask the booking personnel to contact the Cleveland Police Public Information Officer.

If the booking personnel proceed with booking, a routine booking procedure will be conducted in which you will be fingerprinted, your photograph will be taken, and your identity will be verified. You should cooperate in giving your name, address, and other basic identifying information, but remember that other statements you make can and will be used against you in later proceedings. Again, identifying yourself as a reporter may expedite your processing.

Phones should be available for your use once your processing is complete. If you do not have proof of your identity or refuse to provide it, you will likely stay at the jail and be detained until your identity is determined. Otherwise, you should be able to post your bond, receive a date for a future court appearance, and be released.

The courts have announced that arraignments for minor offenses will occur each day at 11:30am and 4:30pm. Those arrested for these offenses are expected to be cited, released and ordered to come back for one of these arraignments. Arraignments for more serious offenses (crimes involving property damage or violence, or refusal to identify yourself) will occur at 8:30am, 1:30pm, and 6:30pm. These arrestees will be detained pending these arraignments. Hearings will be held on the 3rd floor of the Justice Center Complex; however, if there are a large number of arrests, some arraignments may be held at the House of Corrections, at 4041 Northfield Rd, which is more than 10 miles from downtown.

The Cleveland Municipal Court system will accept credit cards (Visa, Discover, MasterCard) as well as cash for bond payments if you have two forms of identification, including a government ID like a driver’s license. Additional forms of ID include a birth certificate, a workplace-issued ID, and a signed credit card.

All bonds must be posted in person at the Cleveland Municipal Clerk of Courts Office – Criminal/Traffic Division at 1200 Ontario Street – 3rd Level.  See Cleveland Municipal Court, Local Rule 17 Schedule A. Bonds can be posted 24 hours a day. To obtain more detailed bond information, you can contact the Cleveland Municipal Clerk of Courts at 216-664-4790, though wait times are often long.

The Cleveland Municipal Court has extended its hours during the convention, and will be open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Arrestees may appear before a judge collectively. You have the right to have an attorney represent you at your first appearance, and you may call the hotline to request a volunteer attorney who can provide assistance in connection with your first appearance. The hotline should be able to provide a volunteer criminal defense lawyer to assist you, depending on the timing of your first appearance and logistical issues. Volunteers from the National Lawyers Guild and similar organizations may also be present at the courthouse to offer assistance, and the local public defender’s office will likely have staff attorneys on site.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION. When calling the hotline, please identify yourself as a journalist and state that you are calling the hotline. If you are taken into custody and unable to call the hotline, try to inform a colleague, employer or somebody else to contact the hotline on your behalf. You should call the hotline at your earliest opportunity thereafter, however, as the volunteer attorneys can be of little, if any, assistance before speaking with you.

The Reporters Committee and Baker & Hostetler will be happy to assist anyone who has a subsequent court appearance in finding an attorney, but representation at subsequent hearings is not part of the free hotline service.

The hotline should not be used for disputes over credentials or problems unrelated to your news coverage of the convention. You may call the Reporters Committee’s regular hotline, 800-336-4243, if you have other credentialing or access issues.

Hospitals: If you’re worried that someone has been taken to a hospital, the nearest hospitals to check are:
St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, 2351 E. 22nd Street, 216-861-6200
The MetroHealth System, 2500 MetroHealth Drive, 216-778-7800
Cleveland Clinic, 9500 Euclid Avenue, 216-444-2200
University Hospitals of Cleveland, 11100 Euclid Avenue, 216-844-1000

If you have any questions or comments about the hotline, contact Mike Farrell at 216-861-7694; or Gregg Leslie, Legal Defense Director of the Reporters Committee, at 703-807-2100.

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