Remember the fifth of November
From the Editorial Board
Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 31, 2012 11:08
On the evening of Nov. 5, 2011, three student journalists, along with 19 Occupy Atlanta members, were arrested during a protest in Woodruff Park. The protesters’ refusal to leave the park per the Mayor’s request escalated in riot police closing down Peachtree Street in an effort to dismantle the protest.
The student journalists, standing alongside other members of Atlanta’s media community, were arrested while taking pictures of the riot police’s descent down Peachtree.
Last Friday, more than ten months after their arrests, Judy Kim, Alisen Redmon and Stephanie Pharr got their day in court.
Not only did these young women have to prove they were not protesters, they had to confirm they were legitimate members of the media and it was their right to cover the protest for their respective papers.
Press badges were examined, to see if one could be easily forged in an attempt to pose as press. The City of Atlanta inquired if T-shirts could be duplicated in an attempt to pose as a Signal staff member. There was even a shaky iPhone video that showed Redmon being pulled from behind by Atlanta police, out of a crowd of older journalists, and then put into handcuffs.
The City of Atlanta now has to decide if law enforcement acted unfairly when arresting these three women on the charge of “obstructing traffic.” There are a number of things for the city to consider: were they in fact "obstructing traffic" on a closed street? What are the limits of a press credential? No two may look exactly the same, and most press organizations don’t have the luxury of high-tech passes that have a low chance of being replicated.
How can law enforcement identify bogus press credentials, (because there might be a number of faux-journalists running amuck in Atlanta), if they don’t honor the request of the young woman with the camera around her neck, yelling, “I’m student media! I have a press pass,” as they put handcuffs on her.
This is not an issue of obstructing traffic—or paying a misdemeanor fine. Student journalists are leading the media community in a digital sea of change. Not only are they leaving college to compete with veteran journalists, but also able to perform on a professional level while finishing their college education.
The intimidation of young, passionate journalists is not only direct assault against young people being able to accurately disseminate information to their peers, but it intimidates students away from an industry that is as American as apple pie and as necessary as education.
It is absurd that the City of Atlanta has yet to throw out the charges against Kim, Redmon and Pharr, although the City of Atlanta might think it just as absurd that ten months later the student media community won't plead guilty, pay a fine and walk away. It may take a trial, but these three women should continue to fight for legitimacy and their rights as members of the student press.