PHILADELPHIA — On Friday, a coalition of more than 50 local media outlets and national press-freedom and civil-rights groups, including Free Press, called on Philadelphia Mayor James F. Kenney, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and the Philadelphia City Council to denounce unprovoked acts of police violence against journalists covering racial-justice protests across the city.
“Over the course of several days, we have witnessed and documented multiple instances of police violence,” reads a letter signed by these groups and submitted to Philadelphia authorities. “This has included unlawful arrests of journalists and protesters who are documenting the civic demonstrations within Philadelphia.”
Follow this link to see the full list of groups that signed the letter.
The letter sets forth a list of demands, including immediately ending the practice of arresting journalists and protesters expressing their First-Amendment rights, and immediately releasing and dropping charges against anyone who’s been detained for exercising those freedoms. The groups also call on city leadership to affirm these First-Amendment rights and assert that members of the press and the public have a right to record police activity and public protests.
For the past two years, Free Press has organized with communities and newsrooms across Philadelphia to transform how city residents stay informed and engaged. This year, Free Press, the MIC Center and Movement Alliance Project began organizing alongside community groups to replace prevailing media narratives about the criminal-legal system with complex stories about trauma, safety, crime and criminal justice.
Free Press Philadelphia Project Manager Tauhid Chappell made the following statement:
“Now, more than ever, people deserve the right to be informed and see the blatant injustices enacted by the institutions that are supposedly sworn to serve and protect the public and maintain peace for all residents.
“The challenges that arise for law enforcement when Philadelphia residents assert their right to assemble in no way justifies police violence toward the press and protesters enacting their protected rights to document and record these demonstrations.
“Holding our elected leaders and the Philadelphia Police Department accountable is just the beginning. The department must adopt crucial reforms around policing that local community leaders have recommended. We support local efforts to increase public safety by abandoning lethal policing practices.
“Local law enforcement must also commit to ending the unlawful arrest and detainment of members of the press who are exercising their constitutional rights to document protests. We urge Mayor Kenney, Police Commissioner Outlaw and the Philadelphia City Council to take our demands seriously. This moment calls for reform to protect our communities’ First Amendment rights.”