Call the Philadelphia District Attorney's office. It is a frightening situation when the press can't cover arrests of peaceful protesters when they are turned into political prisoners. The police should be disciplined for their actions.
Considering Freedom of the Press
Shortly before the arrests began, the police announced that they would be making arrests if people did not leave. A crew from PBS's Frontline left the area immediately. This made it impossible for them to document the police making the arrests. To my knowledge, Biren was the only member of the press who lingered, with a large crowd, who stayed to document the arrests. This is an essential role for the media-- one which the mainstream media on-site chose not to pursue.
The police could have arrested dozens of additional people who were standing next to or very near Biren. All of those people were acting in a very different way from the protesters in the area where arrests were taking place. They were simply observing the arrests. The way Biren was pulled from the crowd and moved to the area where the arrests were being made suggests that the police wanted to "place" her.
The fact that no other observers were arrested, that instead they were "managed" by the some 80 police at the mall, suggests that this was an intentional selective effort to muzzle the press. Shame on the city of Philadelphia. Shame on the District Attorney's office for allowing charges of "criminal conspiracy" to be lodged against a journalist doing her job, defending democracy and our constitutional rights. If all the people in the vicinity Biren was in had been arrested, there might be a defense for the police-- that all of them had refused to disperse when instructed. But The police had multiple opportunities to arrest others and failed to.
Biren reports that the officer who actually grabbed her acted angrily-- in a scene where there was no need for anger. This was a peaceful demonstration where the organizers were in friendly communication with the police Civil affairs department that was handling the event. Something went wrong here. There should be an investigation. The press is an endangered entity in the US. The big Philly newspapers are in bankruptcy. The police have a responsibility to the constitution NOT to abuse their powers when facing the fourth estate.
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