Two journalists had a nasty run-in with Charlotte police during the run-up to the Democratic National Convention on Sunday.
In a post on Tuesday night, Kevin Gosztola, a journalist for the Firedoglake blog, wrote about the police intimidation that he and fellow journalist Steve Horn had encountered during one of several protests that have been carried out by undocumented immigrants over the course of the convention.
Gosztola wrote that he and Horn identified what appeared to be four poorly disguised undercover agents (one, for instance, had a black earpiece in his ear) who were taking pictures of the protesters. When they followed one of them, the man grabbed Horn, threatened to punch Gosztola in the teeth, and called for uniformed officers to provide him backup:
One of the agents chased down Gosztola, who tried to walk away. Then, on Fifth Street, a uniformed police officer ran after Gosztola, who turned when he saw the officer. He was stopped and searched. The officer that stopped Gosztola said the men were just people who did not like having their picture taken. He asked Gosztola to turn over his phone. Gosztola deleted his photos in front of the officer in order to avoid arrest or confiscation of the device. The officer searched through Gosztola's backpack demanded identification which he reported to authorities. The uniformed police officer that stopped Horn told him the men were officers. The uniformed officer referred to one of the men as an "officer" when speaking with Horn.
There is nothing illegal, of course, about photographing anybody in public.
Extremely high security has been a feature of both the Republican and Democratic conventions. Speaking to HuffPost Live during the RNC, "Democracy Now" host Amy Goodman described what it was like to be in Tampa.
"The security forces [in Tampa] have gotten $50 million," she said. "They're buying drones, they're buying tanks, the surveillance is increasing and this is a very serious issue for us in a civilian society to take on."
Journalists were hassled inside the convention as well. Michael Tracey, a reporter with Salon and other outlets, was asked to leave a media area on Tuesday because he questioned White House adviser Valerie Jarrett about the Obama administration's drone strike policy -- something that, unsurprisingly, the convention has not featured much talk of:
In a post for The American Conservative on Wednesday afternoon, Tracey elaborated on what had happened after he walked up to Jarrett and asked her questions about the victims of drone strikes in Pakistan:
...Jarrett’s handlers, alarmed, then joined forces with Convention staff and summoned two uniformed police officers, who informed me I was to leave the area immediately — my duly-assigned credential notwithstanding. (In fairness, the officers themselves were friendly about this, and actually seemed rather befuddled.)
As I gathered my belongings, the guy who had been manning the TV camera whined at me: “Come on man, we’re trying to get people up here for interviews. What you did was not cool.”