Chicago cops threaten to revoke First Amendment rights from journalists

Posted on June 2, 2012


Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press, but can cops eliminate that

NBC News Sprinter

liberty all together? Journalists in America are quickly learning that their own presence is pushing the police to threaten their First Amendment rights.

No, cops in the US cannot actually strip reporters and cameramen of their right to report freely in public space, but more and more often lately journalists in America are learning that the officers in charge of enforcing laws have a very limited understanding of what they have sworn to uphold. While on assignment recently in Chicago, two credentialed members of the media were hauled away in cuffs.

“Your First Amendment rights can be terminated,” was the warning issued by a Chicago Police Department officer that was caught on video this March. Two staffers with a local NBC News affiliate were apprehended while on the scene outside of an area hospital to report on the death of a young girl when cops patrolling the premises insisted that journalists walk away from the building; members of the press had already been forced to retreat across the street from the facility when the altercation took place.

When members of the media challenged the officer’s threat, they were told, “Your presence is creating a scene.” After arrested two reporters with NBC News, the Chicago PD released them without filing charges and issued a statement explaining their actions:

“We removed two individuals from the hospital at the request of hospital security guards, who asserted that the individuals had tried to go past them into secure and private areas of the hospital. The security guards declined to press charges and the individuals were released,” reads the statement.

The press release continues but nowhere does it address the behavior of the officers who were videotaped threatening to revoke constitutional rights from the fourth estate. Addressing the ongoing trend of journalists being pushed around by the police, MSNBC blogger Bob Sullivan writes on Friday that it’s only to be expected. Commenting on the video that shows reporters removed from the scene in handcuffs, Suillivan says, “The video is chilling, but it’s also a sign of the times.”

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