March 12, 2016

Police arrested five people, including a CBS News reporter, Friday night after protesters disrupted a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Sopan Deb, who’s covered Trump events across America, kept his camera rolling and identified himself as a credentialed journalist to the officer who handcuffed him.

As skirmishes broke out between Trump protesters and supporters, Deb captured video and interviews then moved outside, where he recorded video of a bleeding protester who was lying on the street surrounded by police. According to Deb’s video, aired on Saturday by “CBS This Morning,” a police officer forced Deb to the ground and put a boot on his neck “to keep him in place.”

Deb was charged with resisting arrest, according to CBS News, but neither Deb’s video nor video captured by another news crew shows any sign of resistance. Deb’s camera was returned to him upon his release.

In an appearance on “Face the Nation” Sunday morning, Deb said he was forced to the ground even as he told the officer he was a journalist.

As police were taking control of the street, another scuffle broke out and “a police officer pulled me down by the back of my hoodie and threw me to the ground and bashed my face into the street.”

Deb said he kept identifying himself as a credentialed journalist while an officer put a boot on his neck and handcuffed him. He said officers put him in a pitch-black police van along with the bloodied protestor and other man. He sat cuffed in the van for an hour and was cuffed again while being booked at the police precinct.

Journalists like Deb have some legal recourse when they are arrested, said Mickey Osterreicher, the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association.

“The first thing would be for CBS attorneys to seek to have the charges dropped or have the DA agree not to prosecute,” Osterreicher said. “Then they could bring a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officers and police department (and possibly others) under 42 USC 1983. In this case I strongly believe the journalist’s rights were violated under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as other state laws such as false arrest.”


David Rhodes, the president of CBS News, acknowledged the arrest on Twitter Saturday.

Deb tweeted Friday night as tensions escalated inside the University of Illinois at Chicago auditorium where thousands packed the stands and protests outside grew more intense:

Journalists have chronicled heightening tensions at Trump rallies for months. The Chicago protest came only one day after the the White House Correspondents’ Association issued a statement cautioning against fiery rhetoric against the press on the campaign trail.

The statement was preceded by clashes between protesters, Trump supporters and the press that have been ongoing since late last year. On Nov. 21, a half-dozen white Trump supporters shoved, kicked and tackled a black protester who interrupted their candidate’s speech in Birmingham, Alabama. The next day, Trump said the protester’s actions were “absolutely disgusting” and suggested that he “should have been roughed up.”

At a Feb. 23 Trump rally in Las Vegas, the GOP frontrunner said of a protester, “I’d like to punch him in the face.” The crowd roared, and Trump kept going. “In the old days,” Trump said, protesters would be “carried out on stretchers.”

On Wednesday, a Trump supporter sucker-punched a protester in the face as security escorted him out of a Trump rally. The supporter told Inside Edition that the protester “deserved it” and threatened to kill him if he saw him again.

Hours before the Chicago protests boiled over, Trump shouted at protesters during a rally in St. Louis as they were escorted away. Junius Randolph, a digital producer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, noted on Twitter that police arrested two men, one of them bloodied, at Trump’s rally.

Trump versus the press

Friday’s arrest is the latest in a series of confrontations endured by journalists covering the Trump campaign. Photojournalists across the country have told Poynter that Trump has disparaged them in public in front of his supporters. He routinely orders photojournalists to pan their cameras to show the size of his crowd, then ridicules them when they refuse.

In February, TIME photographer Chris Morris was slammed to the ground after confronting a member of Trump’s security detail. And on Friday, Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields filed charges against Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, whom she says yanked her arm as she tried to question the candidate.

Journalists react

Journalists offered analysis Friday night about what the disrupted rally could mean for Trump’s campaign. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews told Trump that he “should have been able to predict” the outburst during a live phone conversation. His colleague, Rachel Maddow, noted that the protest was provoked by Trump’s controversial rhetoric.

“This is mobs of people being spurred to violence by the person in the front of the room in front of the microphone,” Maddow said.

Trump, meanwhile, told Fox News Friday night that he doesn’t use “hate speech.”

“There’s tremendous division in our country,” Trump said. “I’ve seen it, I’m watching it, I’ve been witness to it, and something has to be done.”

Also on Fox, Megyn Kelly — who has been the recipient of Trump’s most personal attacks — said that Trump’s “First Amendment rights have been shut down tonight.”

Predictably, the New York Daily News laid the blame for the protests directly at Trump’s feet:

don's hands

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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