Protect Black Journalists From Arrests at Protests Too
Black journalists deserve to be protected from arrest too--even if they don't work at a mainstream media outlet.

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It’s nice the LA City Council wants to now speak up for reporters detained during protests. But let’s be clear, this didn’t really become an “issue” until white reporters were being arrested and hurt. When Black reporters were being arrested and even charged few of them had anything to say and even worse–their own attorney was the one attempting to prosecute them on their behalf.

I spent a night in jail after being arrested in downtown Los Angeles over the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and Ezell Ford locally. That was in 2014. 

Michael Brown was an unarmed Black teenager, was shot and killed on Aug. 9, 2014, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Mo.  Ezell Ford was a 25-year-old Black man diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, was fatally shot by LAPD officers in South L.A. on Aug. 11, 2014.   Both shootings happened within days of each and ignited a firestorm of protests in Los Angeles.

For me, it was the third night of large scale citywide protests. I had been covering the protests for KJLH-FM and the Los Angeles Sentinel–both Black owned media organizations.  Add to that, just that morning I had filled in on-air at the radio station for a friend who was out that day and interviewed then Council President Herb Wesson who was also the Acting Mayor since Mayor Eric Garcetti was out of state. 

LA City Council President Herb Wesson and myself on-air at KJLH-FM Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014.

The protests drew thousands of Angelenos and stretched from Mid City, Koreatown, to the Crenshaw District, USC and into downtown Los Angeles.

On the third consecutive night of protesting the LAPD decided to employ a tactic called kettling, also known as containment or corralling. It’s a police tactic for controlling large crowds during demonstrations or protests and involves the formation of large cordons of police officers who then move to contain a crowd within a limited area.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSkWL3JCu3o[/embedyt]

That’s exactly what happened on 6th and Hope behind the Central Library.

I along with hundreds of others were “kettled” into a cul de sac where we were detained before being arrested and then transported to jail for booking.

I wasn’t the only journalist who was detained.  There were white television reporters and photographers who I watched being allowed to exit the containment.  I immediately identified myself and who I was with and I was brushed off.  I already knew. I was Black so I had to be a protestor.  

Reporter detained
This photographer was allowed to leave the containment area.

The powers that be at LAPD know exactly who I am. At that time I had broken numerous stories related to the department.  There was the Ponygate–Chief Charlie Beck and his daughter’s horse, Boxergate–the taxpayer-funded book signing for a member of the Mexican mafia, and who could forget Lygagate that exposed now fired detective Frank Lyga’s racist and misogynistic comments made during a training class–to name a few.  

And I am going to pull over the car right here for a moment to say something that’s important to me.

The mainstream media here in Los Angeles has no problem asking me for my information or contacts and using my information and contacts. And let’s not beat around the bush–mainstream is a politically correct word for “white.” 

I have watched journalists here in Los Angeles win Press Club awards on stories I broke.  All the while labeling me as just some activist or “blogger” because when you’re a Black woman who uses her journalism to bring attention to stories and issues that would have gone under-reported, overlooked, or just ignored without being attached to a mainstream media organization–that’s how you’re viewed to them.  You cannot be on the same level as they are.  They always have to drop you a notch or two and keep you in the box they believe that you belong in.

Black journalists and the Black media get very little respect even though truth be told a lot of times the mainstream media is following our lead, stealing our stories, and using us–without paying us or crediting us I’ll add.

I made the decision in my career to intentionally work with Black media, remain freelance and not try and get a mainstream TV gig. Not because I wasn’t up to the job. I could dance circles around many of the reporters I see in this city. But because I know that plus-size Black women have never really been in demand in TV news and I wanted a level of freedom to cover what I want the way I want. I’ve been pretty damn successful at it all of these years. I earned my community’s trust and respect. Doesn’t make me or anyone like me any less of a journalist than anyone at the L.A. Times or any other television news organization.

But continuing on this journey…

I was arrested but to add insult to injury City-Attorney-I-want-to-be-the-next-mayor Mike Feuer charged me with three misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest.

My Booking Photo 😩 11/26/2014

A sergeant claimed that I appeared to be leading protesters who were trying to push through a police skirmish line. The sergeant said that he told protesters to “get back,” but that I stepped towards officers, the police report said.

reporter arrested

Now while none of that happened and none of the video evidence the city attorney’s office claimed to have ever came to fruition and so the charges had to be dropped, for an entire year I had this hanging over my head and no one from the media came to my aid. Not to mention I now have an arrest record.

Meanwhile, yes, the mainstream media wanted to interview me after I was released. Yes, they wanted to use my photos and videos for their news reports. Yes, they wanted me to connect them with other people who had been arrested–but speak up for a fellow journalist who was arrested–nah.

Imagine my surprise when white reporters start getting detained and hurt trying to cover Black Lives Matter protests–that until recently they weren’t even covering but just repeating verbatim whatever the police told them happened–and now there’s this uproar.

Back when I was arrested the LA Council wasn’t the enlightened body it is now where protests and Black Lives Matter are concerned. Although I will say Council President Herb Wesson had my back and I appreciate that.

So if we’re going to take up the issue of journalists being arrested at protests, let’s talk about all of it.

It’s long past time to stop the continued disrespect of Black people in every profession–including journalism.  It’s racist, elitist, and classist to think that just because you work for a certain entity you’re a better journalist or someone isn’t a journalist. It’s 2021, some of the best journalists in America didn’t go to journalism school and they are still journalists.

Black journalists deserve to be protected from arrest too–even if they don’t work at a mainstream media outlet.  We need it even more as journalists since we’re automatically assumed by the police to be protestors because of the color of our skin.