The Washington Post
As Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies tackled Josie Huang to the street on Saturday night, the reporter for NPR affiliate KPCC screamed repeatedly she was a journalist. Deputies arrested her anyway, leaving her with scrapes, bruises, a five-hour stay in custody — and an obstruction charge that carries up to a year in jail.
Police claimed Huang, who also reports for LAist, didn’t have credentials and ignored demands to leave the area.
But those claims are contradicted by video Huang shared on Sunday showing her quickly backing away from police when ordered to do so and repeatedly identifying herself as a journalist. Huang said she also had a press badge around her neck.
NPR executives and reporters groups condemned Huang’s arrest, demanding her charges be dropped and the sheriff’s department explain why officers forcefully tackled her.
“We hold the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department accountable to provide answers for the excessive use of force in the detainment of our colleague,” the Asian American Journalists Association said in a statement. “The Los Angeles chapter of AAJA demands an investigation and apology for her arrest.”
An independent monitor who oversees investigations into the sheriff’s department also launched a probe into her arrest. “What surprises me the most is that once she was identified as a reporter that they transported her, that they cited her,” L.A. County Inspector Gen. Max Huntsman told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday.
As protests have swept the nation this year, journalists covering the unrest have faced regular threats of violence and detention by police. In many cases, officers have fired tear gas and less-than-lethal rounds at reporters and arrested them even after they’ve clearly identified themselves as journalists, The Washington Post reported.
Huang said that is precisely what happened to her on Saturday.
Like dozens of other reporters, she had gone to a news conference outside St. Francis Medical Center, where doctors were treating two officers who had been shot in the head in an ambush earlier that night. Afterward, she was typing notes in her car in a parking garage when she heard a commotion in the street, Huang recounted in a Twitter thread on Sunday.
She ventured outside, with her press ID hanging around her neck, and found a few men waving flags and taunting deputies. As the police chased one man and then tackled him, she followed at a distance, filming the incident with her camera’s zoom function.
Suddenly, as seen in a video she shot, one deputy yelled, “Back up.” In her next video, Huang backed quickly away as a number of officers marched toward her, and then knocked the phone from her hand and took her to the ground.
“I’m a reporter,” she yelled. “I’m with KPCC!”
Her phone continued recording during her arrest, capturing her telling officers that they were hurting her and yelling yet again that she is a journalist. Another bystander’s video shows Huang being roughly pulled to the ground while a number of officers piled on top of her.
Huang said she was held in custody for five hours and deputies refused to uncuff her to let her put a face mask back on. When she complained her leg was bleeding, they told her it was a “scrape,” she said.
Early on Sunday morning, the sheriff’s office told a different story in recounting her arrest. The department said that as officers were struggling to arrest a protester, “a female adult ran towards the deputies, ignored repeated commands to stay back as they struggled with the male and interfered with the arrest.”
Huang “did not identify herself as press,” the department claimed, “and later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person.”
Asked by The Post to clarify those claims in light of Huang’s videos showing her clearly identifying herself as a reporter, a department spokesperson declined to comment citing an ongoing investigation.
NPR officials called for Huang’s charges to be dropped.
“Her arrest is the latest in a series of troubling interactions between our reporters and some local law enforcement officers,” Herb Scannell, chief executive of Southern California Public Radio, said in a statement to the Times. “Journalists provide an essential service, providing fair, accurate and timely journalism and without them, our democracy is at risk.”