Journalists go to court
No decision reached for arrested students
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 16:08
Last Friday’s court hearing for three student journalists that were arrested while covering a protest yielded no conclusion—only more court dates.
Former Signal photography editor Judy Kim, Kennseaw State University’s The Sentinel’s Alisen Redmon and former Creative Loafing intern Stephanie Pharr waited more than ten months to appear in front of a judge for the misdemeanor charge “obstruction of traffic.”
They were arrested during a Nov. 5 Occupy Atlanta protest in Woodruff Park. Protesters left the park that night and began a march down Peachtree Street. In an attempt to subdue the crowd, Atlanta Police deployed a mounted unit, motorcycle squad and riot police.
While the protesters wait for a Sept. 28 court date, the student journalists were granted a separate hearing Aug. 24.
The three journalists claimed they were not obstructing the streets with the protesters; rather, they were observing and photographing the protest from the same vantage points as other professional journalists covering the event.
The students maintain that they, and other members of the media, did move along the sidewalk and the street while taking pictures.
“In my opinion Alisen acted with the upmost professionalism,” said KSU Media Advisor Ed Bonza when he was questioned about Redmon’s actions at the protest.
Bonza maintained that Redmon was expected to cover the protest, since the event was newsworthy to the KSU community.
One piece of evidence, a homemade video, shows Redmon being arrested from behind while taking photographs. Bonza said the only difference between Redmon and the other journalists at the event was her age.
Dr. Bryce McNeil, student media advisor for Georgia State, said it was Kim’s job to cover the protest.
“It was happening in the heart of our campus,” McNeil said.
Major pieces of evidence included press passes the students carried at the time of the arrests. They were examined and the ease of their duplication was discussed.
KSU student media identify themselves as press with distinct students ID cards, including a hologram.
Georgia State student media receives press passes from the Associated Collegiate Press and the Georgia College Press Association.
At the time of the arrest Redmon was wearing her press pass around her neck. Kim’s pass was in her bag.
Judge Crystal Gaines’ ultimately did not make a final decision. She asked the attorneys to have more time to consider evidence. She plans on calling them in the coming weeks to discuss the evidence.
They may return to court with the protesters on Sept. 28.
“I can’t believe that this wasn’t taken care of with a few phone calls,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.
Months after the protest the journalists continue to wait for the charges against them to possibly be dropped.
“I am disappointed that that is lasting this long because for me, Alisen and Stephanie we were just trying to do a job, just wrong place wrong time,” Kim said.
Until then, the three will just have to wait.
“It was not what we were hoping for,” Kim said of the hearing. “We’re making progress, slowly and surely, but it’s not were we would obviously like it to be.”