Media members among those arrested
Protesters try to avoid the pepper spray during a protest at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Monday, Sept. 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
By Scott Bauer
MINNEAPOLIS — Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke and Democracy Now! TV and radio show host Amy Goodman were among those arrested Monday at an anti-war march coinciding with the first day of the Republican National Convention.
Police said late Monday that they had arrested 284 people as of 11 p.m. Most of the estimated 10,000 people in the march were peaceful, but small groups totaling about 200 broke windows, taunted police, slashed tires and harassed delegates.
Rourke was swept up as police moved in on a group of protesters in downtown St. Paul, the scene of scattered violence and vandalism by protesters, some of whom described themselves as anarchists.
Goodman was arrested as she tried to prevent two colleagues from being arrested, a producer for her show said.
Covering breaking news
David Ake, an AP assistant chief of bureau in Washington, said he was concerned by the arrest of Rourke, a Philadelphia-based photographer.
"Covering news is a constitutionally protected activity, and covering a riot is part of that coverage," Ake said. "Photographers should not be detained for covering breaking news."
Phil Carruthers, director of the prosecution division of the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, said late Monday night that Rourke was being released and no charges were anticipated unless something very unusual turned up upon further investigation. Rourke was released early today.
Police had been holding Rourke on a gross misdemeanor riot charge, said Tom Walsh, a St. Paul police spokesman.
Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties, Democracy Now! said in a statement. Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Holli Drinkwine said Goodman was arrested on a misdemeanor but she didn’t know the charge. She did not immediately have any information about the other three.
Rourke took photos throughout the day showing police shooting tear gas at protesters. Evan Vucci, another AP photographer, was with Rourke but did not see him get arrested.
"The police had pushed the protesters into a parking lot where they had police coming from all sides to encircle one area," Vucci said. "Once they got all the protesters into this one parking lot they kind of rushed and arrested all the protesters in there."
Vucci said he was picked up from behind, thrown down and kicked in the ribs by police before being handcuffed. He said he avoided being arrested after showing an officer his press credentials.
"I don’t think the police officers were targeting journalists," Vucci said. "The group they were going after was a pretty aggressive group, and I think they’d had enough of them. … I think the cops were amped up."