Journalism Association calls on LA County D.A. to prosecute attacks on journalists

LBPD officers continue firing rubber bullets into the crowd of protesters at the intersection of Broadway and Pine Ave. on Sunday, May, 31.

The Los Angeles Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists condemned the attacks on journalists covering recent protests and called on Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to investigate and prosecute excessive use of force by law enforcement officers.

“SPJ/LA shares the widespread sorrow and outrage at the death of George Floyd and strongly supports the commitment of Minneapolis authorities to pursue criminal prosecution of those responsible. As many others have noted, Floyd’s killing is only the latest in a long line of incidents that have seen excessive force and unacceptable police tactics deployed disproportionately against people of color, too often with little or no consequence. This week’s protests and civil disturbances must be viewed in that larger context,” the nonprofit organization said in a statement.

“As a professional organization dedicated to advocating for journalists and the practice of journalism, we also note with particular concern the numerous incidents nationally, and locally, that involve targeted attacks by law enforcement personnel on individual journalists who clearly identified themselves as journalists and were simply doing their jobs,” the statement continued.

Though it did not mention him by name, SPJ/LA cited the case of KPCC/LAist reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, who was shot in the neck with a rubber bullet while covering protests in Long Beach Sunday.

Guzman-Lopez shared a photo of the injury to his neck on Twitter, posting, “I had just interviewed a man with my phone at 3rd and Pine and a police officer aimed and shot me in the throat … OK, that’s one way to stop me, for a while.”

LAist contributor Lexis Olivier-Ray also took to Twitter to allege police brutality, saying an Los Angeles Police Department officer “hit me in the stomach after I clearly identified myself as a journalist multiple times.”

Signal Tribune reporter Kristen Farrah Naeem was almost hit by a rubber bullet herself.

During a Monday morning briefing, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said he had reached out to Guzman-Lopez to apologize.

Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luna said he learned of the incident Monday morning and had asked internal affairs investigations to look into it.

The 2.5-inch rubber bullet that almost hit Signal Tribune reporter Kristen Farrah Naeem. Fellow KPCC reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez was struck in the neck by one of these. (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

SPJ/LA urged Lacey to take action.

“SPJ/LA is alarmed by the general use of excessive force by police and specifically about the use of any force against journalists seeking to cover the events. Because these incidents are not confined to simply one police agency, we urge District Attorney Jackie Lacey to prioritize investigation and prosecution of excessive force abuses locally, including those committed against working journalists,” the statement continued.

“SPJ/LA is also concerned that such conduct reflects not simply a lack of training and discipline by law enforcement agencies, but the longstanding contempt and hostility from the president and other public officials toward a free and independent press … Those in law enforcement who endanger and harm journalists must be held accountable.”

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