Reporters singled out by police

SocialistWorker.org contributors Trish Kahle, Todd St Hill and Tyler Zimmer wrote this statement describing their encounter with Baltimore police late Friday night.

Baltimore riot police prepare for demonstrations

POLICE TARGETED journalists in Baltimore late Friday night at the end of a day of peaceful mass protests demanding justice for Freddie Gray. While most protesters began to disperse as the 10 p.m. curfew was imposed, journalists, including three from SocialistWorker.org, remained to document the protests and anticipated police abuses.

At 10:22 p.m., a massive wall of approximately 200 riot police began to move toward the crowd, which at that point was composed mostly of media. As we began to move back away from the police, a bucket of ice was thrown from behind us. While we can't know for sure who threw the bucket, given the peaceful nature of the day's protests and the presence of several recognized undercover police officers in the crowd, we believe there is a strong possibility that this was the work of state agent provocateurs.

As soon as the bucket hit the riot shields, the police charged at us. We turned off North Avenue and ran away down Pennsylvania Avenue. Police blocking a nearby cross street charged at Tyler and Todd with his baton ready to strike. While Tyler was able to make it across the street, Todd had turned around to look for Trish--she had run back to the top of the street to retrieve Tyler's press badge, which had become dislodged in the melee and was our only protection in the streets after curfew.

The officer came within one foot of Todd, ready to attack. Todd stopped immediately with his hands raised, and said "Whoa!" The police officer continued to hold his threatening posture and screamed at Todd to "Go the fuck home." At this point, Todd pointed to his clearly visible press badge. The officer continued to verbally harass Todd as Trish ran toward them to make sure Todd was all right. Finally, the police officer stepped back into his line, but continued to hurl verbal insults as we made our way to safety.

It was clear before this altercation occurred that most of the protesters had left, and that most of the people remaining in the area were journalists observing the day's events. Given that the day's protests were entirely peaceful, even in the face of police harassment and intimidation, we find it odd that at the very moment the protesters had almost entirely dispersed and police moved forward to enforce the curfew, a single bin of ice and water bottles was hurtled over the heads of journalists and at the police, and that this incident resulted in an overly aggressive response by police officers.

In addition, the apparent overeagerness of police to engage in a physical altercation with journalists, and particularly with a Black journalist like Todd, demonstrates their disregard for the rights of journalists to report and gives much credit to the complaints of police racism from the West Baltimore community. As three of the journalists involved in this altercation, we oppose both police racism as well as attacks on and intimidation of journalists, and we will continue to report on the Baltimore uprising from the ground.