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Student photographer arrested at protest

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Student photographer arrested at protest

  • Police refused to recognize the student journalist as member of the press and detained him for eight hours.

April 18, 2003 — Despite repeatedly displaying credentials from The (Sacramento City College) Express, a student photographer covering a March 20 anti-war protest in San Francisco was arrested for rioting and blocking traffic.

The photographer, 19-year-old Nick Varanelli, was held for eight hours on charges he said were not applicable.

“I was charged with rioting and blocking traffic, of which I was doing neither. I was on the sidewalk, where people take pictures,” Varanelli said.

When San Francisco police cordoned off a stretch of Mission Street and proceeded to arrest all protestors within the area, Varanelli produced his press pass. He was told it was no good because it had not been issued by the San Francisco police.

“If you have reporters coming from all over the country, everyone has to fill out an application?” Varanelli pointed out.

The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has supported Varanelli and urged that the charges be dropped. His arraignment is scheduled for June.

“I’m hoping I can get the charges dropped since I am a member of the press,” Varanelli said. According to Varanelli, about 300 people were arrested among the same group of protestors.

Student journalists faced a similar situation while covering World Bank/IMF protests in Washington, D.C. last fall. Three George Washington University students have filed lawsuits against the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Attorney General, the attorney for the District of Columbia and the National Park Service following their arrests at the protest. One of their lawyers, GWU Law Professor Jonathan Turley, stated after his clients’ arrest that student journalists have the same First Amendment protections as other journalists.


© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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