US journalists arrested, charged following anti-Trump protests

Protesters face off with riot police during a demonstration after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.
Protesters face off with riot police during a demonstration after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump in Washington. Source: AAP

Six US journalists are facing up to 10 years' jail and a $25,000 fine after being arrested while covering protests during Donald Trump's inauguration.

According to The Guardian, a documentary producer, a photojournalist, a live-streamer and a freelance reporter have been charged with serious offences under Washington DC's anti-rioting laws. 
 
It comes after two more journalists, Evan Engel of Vocativ and Alex Rubinstein of RT America, were also caught up in the police action against demonstrators.
 
All have faced court and have been released to await further hearings in February and March. But none of the arrest reports make any specific allegations against them.
 
Jack Keller, a producer for the web documentary series 'Story of America', said he was charged and detained for around 36 hours, despite telling police he was covering the demonstrations as a journalist. His phone has yet to be returned to him.
 
 
"The way we were treated was an absolute travesty," Mr Keller told The Guardian, 
 
Mr Keller's editor, Annabel Park, called it a "maddening and frustrating situation". 
 
Independent journalist Matt Hopard was also arrested in the same area while live-streaming the protests. Shay Horse, an independent photojournalist and activist, and Aaron Cantú, a freelance journalist and activist were also detained. All three have denied any wrongdoing.
 
 
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for the charges to be dropped.
 
"These charges are clearly inappropriate, and we are concerned that they could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests," said Carlos Lauría, the CPJ's senior Americas program coordinator.
 
Lawyers have accused Washington DC's metropolitan police department of "indiscriminately targeting people... based on location alone".
 
"These illegal acts are clearly designed to chill the speech of protesters engaging in First Amendment activity," said Maggie Ellinger-Locke from the National Lawyers' Guild.
 
According to The Guardian, Evan Engels' arrest report accused the crowd of "enticing a riot by organizing, promoting, encouraging, and participating in acts of violence in furtherance of the riot."
 
"The crowd was observed braking windows, lighting fires, vandalizing police vehicles, burned a limousine, and other acts of violence. The damaged was determined to excess $5,000.00."
 
Under Washington DC's criminal code, the most serious rioting charges are applied when property damage exceeds $5,000. 
 
In all, more than 200 people were arrested and six officers were injured as property was vandalized both before and after Mr Trump was sworn in.