Press freedom advocates are calling for an investigation into the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies following the release of video footage that shows a journalist clearly identifying herself as a reporter while officers wrestle her to the ground Saturday.
"Journalists should never be arrested or attacked by police for doing their job," the ACLU tweeted. "The First Amendment doesn't allow it. To Josie Huang and journalists nationwide: We're with you."
BREAKING: My colleague @josie_huang has been detained in Compton by #LASD deputies. We don't know why. I know her to be an extremely competent and responsible journalist. This video of five deputies on top of her is highly disturbing. https://t.co/Q6NsOJc0UJ— Frank Stoltze (@StoltzeFrankly) September 13, 2020
Huang was arrested Saturday while reporting for LAist and NPR affiliate KPCC outside a hospital in Lynwood, California, where two police officers were recovering from what officials called an "ambush attack."
According to reporting from NPR, Huang was detained for several hours and held in a women's jail at the Century Regional Detention Center, and cited with obstruction upon her release. The charge carries a potential fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.
In a Twitter thread on Sunday morning, the L.A. County Sheriff's office maintained that Haung "did not identify herself as press and later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person."
Video footage of the attack clearly shows several police officers wrestling Huang to the ground while she screams, "I'm with KPCC" and identifying herself as a reporter.
"That's what surprises me the most is that once she was identified as a reporter that they transported her, that they cited her," L.A. County Inspector General Max Huntsman told the Los Angeles Times Sunday. The independent monitor oversees investigations into actions by the Sheriff's Department.
Press freedom watchdogs and fellow journalists quickly condemned law enforcement's actions:
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.@rcfp condemns the violent arrest of @KPCC @LAist reporter @josie_huang, who was arrested by several Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies over the weekend.— Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (@rcfp) September 14, 2020
Journalists should not be arrested for reporting information that is clearly in the public interest. https://t.co/LoMNonbhDe
.@AAJAla and @AAJA stand in support of our fellow Asian American journalist and AAJA-LA member @josie_huang, who was arrested last night by LA County Sheriff's deputies for allegedly "obstructing justice" while reporting. Our statement: pic.twitter.com/2hhLmJSkA2— aaja (@aaja) September 13, 2020
Huang's arrest came amid a summer laden with police brutality against protesters and journalists and as President Trump continues to denounce any media coverage he dislikes as "fake news." The U.S. Press Freedom tracker has documented at least 783 "press freedom incidents" involving law enforcement and the Black Lives Matter protests that began earlier this year.
In addition, new reports out this week from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and UNESCO detail how police militarization in the U.S. has fueled anti-press aggression and document increasing violence against journalists covering protests around the world.
"There is a larger kind of issue that is specific to the media, and to journalists in particular, around how they are being positioned both by law enforcement and the larger political establishment as actually a threat to democracy, as a political agent that is looking to destabilize the current administration; that is a real danger," Marisol LeBrón, assistant professor in the Department of Mexican-American and Latina/o Studies at the University of Texas at Austin said in a CPJ report released earlier this month.
In a statement Saturday, NPRExtra decried Huang's arrest while "performing her job."
"NPR is appalled by the arrest of Josie Huang, a KPCC public radio reporter, who was performing her job last night—gathering facts to inform the American public," the news outlet said in a tweet. "The rights of journalists are protected by the First Amendment, and essential to an informed public and our Democracy."