The Student Press Law Center is calling for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to drop all criminal charges against two college journalists who were arrested Saturday at the site of an "Occupy Atlanta" demonstration.
Saturday evening, Atlanta Police Department officers arrested Alisen Redmond of The Sentinel at Kennesaw State University and Judith Kim of The Signal at Georgia State University as they were reporting on protests near downtown Atlanta’s Woodruff Park, according to a release from the SPLC.
The students each spent about 14 hours in jail and received citations for “obstruction of traffic” despite identifying themselves as journalists and standing on a street that police had closed off to traffic, according to the release.
Both students were released from jail Sunday afternoon and given a March 9, 2012 court date.
“We respect and appreciate the difficult job that police officers do, and that controlling crowds can at times require spur-of-the-moment safety decisions,” wrote SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte in a letter to Mayor Reed.
“However, it appears clear from the video and witness accounts of Saturday night’s events that no public-safety justification existed to arrest pedestrians in a hasty and indiscriminate manner. The officers had ample time to make a distinction between a person causing a disturbance and a person peacefully recording police activity as part of a bona fide news organization.”
The arrests mark the latest run-in between police and student journalists assigned to cover “Occupy” protests. On Oct. 29, Middle Tennessee State University student Malina Chavez-Shannon was arrested while she was photographing the arrests of demonstrators in Nashville.
“I don’t think there is any question that the Atlanta students were singled out for arrest, while the professional videographers standing right alongside them were not, because they look like ‘kids’ to the police,” LoMonte said.
LoMonte encouraged any student who encounters difficulty with police while gathering news to call the SPLC hotline at 703-807-1904.