A reporter said he was arrested Tuesday in Charleston, West Virginia for asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price a question about the cruel GOP healthcare bill that passed the U.S. House last week.
"Our First Amendment rights are under attack every day, particularly from the Trump administration."
—Jamie Lynn Crofts, ACLU of West VirginiaDan Heyman, who works for Public News Service, said he repeatedly asked Price whether domestic violence is considered a pre-existing condition under Trumpcare. Price, who was visiting the state capitol, refused to answer, and Heyman was suddenly arrested by West Virginia Capitol Police.
During a statement to local press, Heyman said, "I think they just decided I was too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job, and so they arrested me."
"First time I've ever been arrested for asking a question," he added. "First time I've ever heard of someone getting arrested for asking a question."
"This is my job, this is what I'm supposed to do," Heyman added. "I'm supposed to go in and find out how someone is going to be affected by this law. A women who is being affected by domestic violence—her life is a hundred times worse than mine[...] I think it's a question that deserves to be answered."
"I was just doing my job," Heyman repeated.
Heyman asserted that he was asking Price questions in a public space, and was never warned by police that any of his actions could result in his arrest.
Valerie Woody, an outreach coordinator for the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, discussed the arrest to Public News Service: "I saw nothing in his behavior, I heard nothing that indicated any kind of aggressive behavior or anything like that. Just simple, you know, trying to get somebody's attention and ask them a question. It seems to me there was no violation of anyone's space, or physicality, other than the arrest itself."
Public News Service reported further:
Kristen O'Sullivan also saw the arrest and recorded it on her phone. She said she was at the Capitol to protest the American Health Care Act as a breast-cancer survivor who is concerned about future coverage limitations for people with pre-existing medical conditions. O'Sullivan didn't know the reporter, who she said was grabbed by the back of the neck and put against a wall by Capitol security officers.
"And it's a shame," she said, "to see not only the fact that we may be losing the ability for ourselves to get our pre-existing conditions covered, but we're losing out on the First Amendment. We can't even report on that anymore."
Heyman was released under a $5,000 bond and is being represented by a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of West Virginia. He is being charged with "willful disruption of governmental processes."
ACLU of West Virginia's legal director Jamie Lynn Crofts said in a press conference: "Our First Amendment rights are under attack every day, particularly from the Trump administration. It's not surprising to me that an incident like this would happen when a reporter tried to ask a question of a member of the Trump administration. They have shown us every day since [President] Donald Trump took office that they don't care about the First Amendment or the free press, and today was just another example of that happening."
Watch a video of the arrest here:
A video of the arrest, shot by Valerie Woody with the West Virginia Citizens Action Group. 3/3 pic.twitter.com/Q1bOSotNEe
— Eric Tegethoff (@EricTegethoff) May 9, 2017
And watch Heyman make his statement, with his lawyer from the ACLU, here: