Des Moines official says newspaper reporter covering protest was arrested after receiving pepper spray injections –

Des Moines official says newspaper reporter covering protest was arrested after receiving pepper spray injections

An Iowa official testified Monday that he arrested a Des Moines Register reporter assigned to cover a Black Lives Matter protest last year after she did not leave the area after he fired pepper spray.

Des Moines officer Luke Wilson spoke during the trial for reporter Andrea Sahouri and then-boyfriend Spenser Robnett, saying he did not know at the time that Sahouri was a reporter, The Associated Press reported. Sahouri and Robnett face misdemeanor charges for lack of dispersal and interference with official acts.

The case against Sahouri has received local, national and international scrutiny from journalists and human rights defenders, as she is believed to be the first active duty journalist to be tried in the US since 2018, according to the Freedom Tracker. Press Office

In his testimony, Wilson recounted that he responded outside the Merle Hay mall on May 31, where protesters smashed windows and threw projectiles, such as rocks and water bottles, at officers. He said he fired pepper spray from a nebulizer to break up the crowd, but Sahouri stayed.

“Once I decided that she wasn’t leaving, I had to take action,” he said, according to the AP.

The officer said he grabbed Sahouri while firing pepper spray with his other hand, hitting both her and Robnett, who returned to rescue her from custody. Wilson said he had thought he had activated his body camera, but later found he had not.

Prosecutor Brecklyn Carey told jurors that the footage shows police leading a crowd that included Sahouri and Robnett, to disperse around 6:30 p.m. and shows Robnett 90 minutes later trying to get Sahouri away from the officer. who arrested him, according to the AP.

But defense attorney Nicholas Klinefeldt argued that the 6:30 pm order was directed at those blocking an intersection and that the couple followed those instructions.

She said Sahouri and Robnett ran when tear gas was fired an hour and a half later, and the officer grabbed her and pepper sprayed her while she identified herself as a press, to which Wilson allegedly replied, “That’s not what I asked.” .

The Black Lives Matter protests last summer erupted nationwide after George Floyd was assassinated after a Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.

Sahouri was among more than 125 reporters detained or arrested during the 2020 protests, and most were either not charged or were dismissed. Twelve other reporters still face prosecution, the AP reported, citing the US Press Freedom Tracker.

If the two are found guilty, they would face fines of hundreds of dollars, a criminal record and, although unlikely, up to 30 days in jail for each count.


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