Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Journalist Amy Goodman & Colleagues Win $100,000 Settlement over ’08 G.O.P. Convention Arrests

Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and two of her producers will receive $100,000 in a settlement regarding their arrests at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Associated Press reports.

Goodman and producers Nicole Salazar and Sharif Abdel Kouddous were arrested along with 40 to 50 other journalists while covering street demonstrations outside the GOP convention. According to Democracy Now!, Salazar and Kouddous were covering a police crackdown on the protests when they were apprehended by riot police. Salazar, whose camera captured her arrest, was ordered “on her face” by an officer. She repeatedly screamed “PRESS!” as she was forcefully taken into custody by riot police who bloodied her face. Kouddous was arrested next. When Goodman rushed to the scene and demanded that the officers release her producers, she too was arrested. The three colleagues demanded to be released; they were, after all, accredited members of the press. At that point, a Secret Service agent came and ripped off their credentials.

Arrest of accredited journalist Nicole Salazar:

Arrest of accredited journalist Amy Goodman:

Some 800 demonstrators and bystanders were also arrested during the course of the convention.

“When journalists are arrested, it is not only a violation of the freedom the press, but of the public’s right to know,” Goodman said in a statement.  “When journalists are handcuffed and abused, so is democracy. We should not have to get a record when we put things on the record.”

According to the Associated Press, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul will pay a combined $90,000, with the federal government adding another $10,000. The federal government was named in the lawsuit due to the fact that a Secret Service agent confiscated the journalists’ press credentials.

Speaking in New York City, where she is covering the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests, Goodman said the money would be used “to support independent, unfettered” journalism.

“Dissent is what will save our country,” Goodman declared. “Dissent is what our country was founded on. It’s our job to find a place for those voices.”

In addition to the financial settlement, the St. Paul police department has agreed to implement a training program to educate officers about the First Amendment rights of journalists and the general public.

Amy Goodman is the award-winning host of Democracy Now!, a progressive news and analysis program which airs daily on more than 900 radio and TV stations as well as the internet. It is an independent, commercial-free program, an honest alternative to mainstream, corporate-controlled news media.

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One Comment

  1. molly maloneOctober 30, 2011 at 8:08 pmReply

    I remember seeing this when it happened, and now, after all this time I still have many questions:

    Is it only an unspoken rule that the press has immunity in situations like this, or does that rule have some legal teeth in it?

    What happened to the Secret Service agent who confiscated Amy’s and her crew’s credentials? Sure, the U.S. government paid a $10k fine/judgement (meaning you and I paid it) but was the agent acting independently or was he following orders? Whose orders. Orders to do what?

    Was the suit settled out of court? If so, why? Did it go to trial, and if so, what was the basis for the decision?

    I hope you will do a follow up post. Knowledge is power, and there is a much here that we should learn.

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