At least 20 journalists were arrested, detained or assaulted in Los Angeles, California, while documenting demonstrations near Echo Park Lake on March 25, 2021, as reported to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, on social media and in other news outlets.
As crowds demonstrated against the city’s plan to clear a large homeless encampment, Los Angeles Police Department officers declared the gathering at the park’s northern entrance unlawful shortly after 8 p.m., The Washington Post reported.
Before anyone could exit, according to The Post, a supervising officer announced that everyone was under arrest and officers surrounded the group using a police tactic called “kettling.”
Freelance journalist Gabriel Fuente, whose work has been published by Salon, The Kollection and 48 Hills according to his Twitter bio, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was among the journalists trapped in the kettle with protesters that night.
Fuente said that those inside the kettle tried to leave, “but police said it was too late. We were under arrest.”
He said that as police continued to make arrests, media were asked to come to the front, and members of the press with press credentials were allowed to leave.
“My partner and I showed our author pages, attempting to demonstrate that we were published journalists, but this was not sufficient evidence,” Fuente said. “We needed to have a press badge.”
Fuente told the Tracker that he was arrested along with his colleague, Sean Edwards, editor-in-chief of The Kollection, and transported to the 77th Street Community Police Station in South Central Los Angeles. According to Fuente, he was “handed a ticket with the PC 409 — failure to disperse at the scene of an unlawful assembly.”
Fuente said he was released at 1 a.m. on the 26th and is scheduled to appear in court July 22.
Around the time it was making arrests, LAPD issued a statement on Twitter that reads, in part, “As a reminder, members of the media are also to obey the dispersal orders. Members of the media are to use the designated media viewing area.”
At around 1 a.m. on March 26, the LAPD posted another statement specifically addressing the detainments of members of the press.
“An unlawful assembly was declared by the Incident Commander after the unlawful activity of individuals threatened the safety of the officers and all those present,” the statement reads. According to the statement, police declared the gathering unlawful in part because protesters were shining strobe lights at police, which can “cause significant injury to the eyes.”
The statement says members of the press were directed to identify themselves and relocate to a media area about 350 feet away from the crowd.
The LAPD statement notes that as individual arrests were made of those inside the kettle, police officers “learned that several credentialed and non-credentialed members of the media were part of the group. Members from the Department’s Media Relations Division were summoned to assist in identifying these individuals and they were released at scene without being arrested.”
The Los Angeles Police Department, which only accepts requests for comment via email, did not respond to a request for further comment.
The Tracker documents all arrests separately. Find all documented press freedom violations from the Echo Park Lake protests here.
This content originally appeared on U.S. Press Freedom Tracker: All Incidents and was authored by U.S. Press Freedom Tracker: All Incidents.