Josie Huang, a public radio reporter, was arrested Saturday night in Los Angeles as she was covering protests that were taking place outside a hospital in which two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were being treated after they were shot in an ambush. The arrest was filmed by a news crew that was in the area and showed how officers tackled and pinned the reporter’s face down against the pavement as they detained her. Amid outrage on social media, the sheriff’s department tweeted that the reporter was arrested when she interfered with the arrest of a protester. “The female adult, who was later identified as a member of the press, did not identify herself as press and later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person,” reads the tweet. Huang, who works for Los Angeles NPR affiliate KPCC, shared several videos that she shot before the arrest that put into question several of the assertions made by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Huang begins retelling what happened Saturday night by noting she was covering the news conference about the two deputies who were shot. She later went to her car and was talking to one of her editors before she heard shouting and decided to go check out what was going on. “I had on a lanyard around my neck with a press ID,” she wrote.
Huang says she started filming the people who were outside the hospital protesting. “One deputy pointed a weapon at the protesters,” she wrote. Huang started filming and sent a video to her editors. Suddenly, the protesters dispersed and officers started following someone down the street. “I walked behind, using the zoom on my camera so I could keep physical distance,” she wrote.
As officers rushed a man, she kept on filming the arrest. That’s when things suddenly turn violent for apparently no reason. Deputies shout “back up” at Huang, and in a matter of seconds she is shoved and Huang can be heard saying, “I’m a reporter. … I’m with KPCC.” When her phone falls to the ground, it very much looks like officers purposefully try to damage the phone as Huang makes it clear deputies are hurting her. “You guys are hurting me,” she says. “Stop it.” Huang says that after she was put in the back of a patrol car, a deputy refused to uncuff her to allow her to put her face mask back on. She was in custody for around five hours.
Photos show she was bruised during the arrest. A KPCC executive told LAist that Huang also had a “sore shoulder and a blackened eye.” Huang’s arrest marks “the latest in a series of troubling interactions between our reporters and some local law enforcement officers,” KPCC said in a statement. “Journalists provide an essential service, providing fair, accurate and timely journalism and without them, our democracy is at risk.” NPR also issued a statement saying it was “appalled” by the arrest: “The rights of journalists are protected by the First Amendment, and essential to an informed public and our Democracy.” The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the arrest, noting it was “disturbed by video of many officers pinning her to the ground.”