Journalists Face Felony Charges After Arrests During Trump Inauguration Protests

Multiple journalists arrested while covering President Donald Trump's inauguration in Washington have been charged with felony rioting, an accusation one of their employers called an "affront to the First Amendment". Evan Engel of Vocativ, and Alex Rubinstein of RT America were arrested while covering the riots.

"Arresting journalists is a disturbing move at the beginning of a new administration already mired in controversy, and we are calling on the authorities to drop the charges immediately". We ask law enforcement officers to please keep in mind that there are journalists at these events to cover them but not participate in them and to please not arrest a journalist that is just doing their job.

Under Washington DC's criminal code, the most serious rioting charges are applied when property damage exceeds $5,000.

Carlos Lauria of the Committee to Protect Journalists told the Times the charges are "completely inappropriate and excessive". Keller's editor, Annabel Park, said: "It is a maddening and frustrating situation". Based on the facts and circumstances, we determined that probable cause existed to support the filing of felony rioting charges.

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A spokesperson for Engel's online publication, Vocativ, says the arrests and charges held against the group of reporters are "an affront to the First Amendment and journalistic freedom". If convicted, the journalists may be sentenced to up to 10 years imprisonment and will have to pay $25,000-fines.

In a signed affidavit, which CPJ has reviewed, police said that they saw a group of more than 300 people, many of whom were wearing bandanas or masks, vandalize property.

At least six journalists were among more than 200 people arrested during anti-Trump demonstrations on Friday, The Guardian reports.

Also arrested while covering the demonstrations at 12th and L streets and later charged were Shay Horse, an independent photojournalist and activist, and Aaron Cantú, a freelance journalist and activist, who has written for outlets including the Baffler, the Washington Spectator and the New Inquiry.

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People stand on the National Mall to listen to the 58th Presidential Inauguration for President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.

None of the arrest reports for the six journalists makes any specific allegations about what any of them are supposed to have done wrong.

Reports on the arrests of five of the six journalists contain identical language alleging that "numerous crimes were occurring in police presence". The other four journalists have hearing dates set for later in match. The journalists were released with preliminary hearing in the cases scheduled for February.

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