Chicago police are being accused of targeting journalists for arrest at the NATO Summit in Chicago. Although the arrest totals over all for the event are considered low, journalists believe they were detained intentionally by the police. The occurrence has raised questions about inappropriate aggressiveness by police.
At least four journalists – including a Getty photographer – were arrested covering the event, and a number of others suffered injuries while working.
Late Saturday night, Tim Pool, Luke Rudkowski, Geoff Shively and two friends were driving to an apartment where they had been staying in Chicago. The group had spent the day live streaming and documenting anti-NATO protests, according to a report in The Guardian.
As they approached a stop sign, roughly a dozen police vehicles – marked and unmarked – reportedly surrounded their car with lights flashing. Using their cellphones Pool and Rudkowski activated their live stream feeds.
"F---in' hands!" one officer is heard yelling, as police approached the vehicle with their guns drawn. (click on the link to view youtube video of event).
Rudkowski, who was in the back passenger seat, reached his arm outside the window, his phone in hand. It nearly cost him his life.
"They started screaming: 'Don't shoot, it's only a cellphone, don't shoot!'" Rudkowski said. "I was scared that they easily could have shot me because they saw something in my hands."
Shively was taken out of the car and the remaining four journalists were handcuffed. The officers smashed batteries and external hard drives that belonged to the journalists, and Rudkowski’s phone was confiscated and much of the recorded footage deleted.
Allegations that journalists were targeted is in addition to the view that police handled the press at NATO inappropriately, a suggestion made by some who were on the ground.
"In comparison to the NYPD, they were much more professional," said CS Muncy, a photographer with the Village Voice, who has covered Occupy actions in New York City and who photographed the NATO demonstrations. Muncy says the police were accommodating to credentialed members of the press and displayed "deference" to the protesters. "It could've been much, much worse."
Muncy did note that reports suggesting live stream journalists were deliberately targeted were "creepy." He said: "That's the more insidious side of things."
Is journalists’ abuse escalating?
Josh Stearns has been following journalist abuse since the Occupy Movement began, and he reports the situation in Chicago is not as bad as during the previous protests in some other cities.
"When you compare something like what happened this weekend to some of the bigger events in New York and Oakland, obviously the kind of press suppression that we saw in those cities didn't happen here," he said. "But there was a significant amount of press getting roughed up."
Stearns added that the alleged targeting of the live streamers was "one of the most troubling things to come out". He believes there is good reason to suspect the group was targeted.
"It's really hard to know beyond what they were able to capture in their audio and video," Stearns said. "However, more than one person prior to that had warned them that they heard police on the radios talking about looking for Tim Pool and others. So it does seem as though they were targeted in some way, shape or form."
Investigative journalist documents in a play two decades of Chicago Police Deptartment torture
John Conroy spent 20 years covering the Chicago Police Department in the Chicago Reader as a veteran investigative journalist and has now written a play documenting what he calls the torture scandal of the Chicago Police Department. He has documented events in a history into My Kind of Town, a two-act play premiering this month at TimeLine Theatre.
“What I wanted to do was indict the city,” Conroy says in the news.uchicago article.
Conroy began reporting in 1990 on the allegations of systematic torture at the Area 2 police headquarters on Chicago’s South Side, he moved on to other projects at the Chicago Reader, expecting the city’s daily newspapers to pick up the story, but it took until 1993 when more reporting and follow-up coverage began.
In 1993, Jon Burge, the police commander at the center of the allegations, was thrown off the police force and the news of his ousting appeared widely in the press. “Burge’s picture was seen by millions in the papers,” Conroy recalls, but there was no public outcry. “People didn’t disbelieve (the allegations). I think they were on the whole ready to endorse it.”
Nick Bowling, the director of TimeLine’s production, contends the muted reaction of Chicago’s citizens is perhaps the most important target of Conroy’s play. “The play is about the city more than it’s about the individual cops involved,” Bowling says. “This is a city that turns its back on all the ugly things until they are pushed into their faces.”