NPR KPCC affiliate reporter Josie Huang was beaten and arrested by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies on Saturday night while covering the shooting of two police officers in Compton.
In a video that has gone viral on social media, and recorded by Huang on her cell phone, you can see how, as she was being thrown to the ground, the reporter tried to make the officers see her press credentials hanging around her neck.
Once on the ground and detached from her phone, the video continued to record. You can hear Huang repeatedly identifying herself as a journalist and shouting “KPCC” several times, and “you’re hurting me,” indicating to the agents that they were mistreating her.
According to the LAist, the incident occurred outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, where two police officers were ambushed and shot. Huang had just finished covering a press conference by Sheriff Alex Villanueva when she was arrested.
For their part, the sheriff’s officers allege that the journalist obstructed justice, refusing to give details of what happened, only arguing that Huang was being detained under the suspicion of obstruction of justice for “interfering with a legal arrest” of a demonstrator.
According to Deputy Juanita Navarro of the Sheriff’s Information Office, Huang “did not have the proper credentials,” a claim disproved by the journalist’s video recording.
As The Washington Post explains, NPR executives and groups of reporters condemned the journalist’s arrest, demanding that the charges be dropped and that the sheriff’s department explain why officers forcibly approached her.
“We hold the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department accountable to provide answers for the excessive use of force in the detainment of our colleague,” the Asian American Journalists Association said in a statement. “The Los Angeles chapter of AAJA demands an investigation and apology for her arrest.”
An independent monitor who oversees investigations into the sheriff’s department also launched a probe into her arrest. “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 Gen. Max Huntsman told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday.
As protests have swept the nation this year, journalists covering the unrest have faced regular police threats and detention. In many cases, officers have fired tear gas and less-than-lethal rounds at reporters and arrested them even after they’ve clearly identified themselves as journalists, The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi reported.
According to the media, Huang said she was detained for five hours, and the deputies refused to remove her handcuffs so that she could put on a mask. When she complained that her leg was bleeding, officers downplayed it and said it was “a scratch.”
Despite having all the evidence against them, the police department insists on maintaining the charges against Huang, and they have refused to comment further.
NPR officials called for Huang’s charges to be dropped.
“Her arrest is the latest in a series of troubling interactions between our reporters and some local law enforcement officers,” Herb Scannell, chief executive of Southern California Public Radio, said in a statement to the Times. “Journalists provide an essential service, providing fair, accurate, and timely journalism, and without them, our democracy is at risk.”