By Jennifer Baker
May 6, 2015
“I witnessed pepper spray, blunt force, and threats with firearms all used by police and National Guard. As such, it was important to make a record for both the news and the history books.”
Baltimore police forcefully detained Ford Fischer a credential journalist for News2Share on Saturday night after he insisted on doing his job of reporting on the curfew enforcement practices of the Baltimore Police and National Guard instead of staying inside the ‘approved’ media area.
Initially, police were going to charge him with violating the curfew, but when they realized that was not lawful considering they made credentialed journalists exempt, BPD immediately changed up and charged him with disorderly conduct, which is the usual catch-all charge they use when no laws were actually broken.
This striking image captured by Edwin Torres, another journalist refusing to be corralled speaks volumes on the state of the free press in Baltimore & the United States.
The mainstream press is giving you a very limited story in #BaltimoreProtest @BaltoSpectatorpic.twitter.com/D5FOQTI7w8
— Edwin Torres (@Edwinjtorres) May 3, 2015
In the video that Fischer created he is scene running with BPD officers and National Guard as they chased people down in the streets using pepper spray and the threat of force or arrest to enforce the 10pm curfew.
Mr. Fischer was trying to record the reality of what was taking place, something every single member of the media present should have been doing. Yet obviously by the measures taken to restrict the movement of journalists the City of Baltimore and BPD didn’t want their actions recorded.
Baltimore police announced they would not be arresting “credentialed” journalists. And according to Fischer, this was determined by company-issued credentials as opposed to credentials issued by the police department as some departments do.
Fischer, who is based in Washington D.C., said his credentials are recognized in the White House. News2Share is a company he co-founded that provides news footage for news companies throughout the world.
The video begins by cops ordering protesters away, pepper spraying them, even though they were not threatening the cops in any way. Then an armored car pulls up filled with National Guardsmen and cops on the street start yelling “blue shirt,” indicating that a man who had been throwing bottles at them was down the street wearing a blue shirt.
So the cops and Fischer begin running, following the armored car, coming to a stop more than four blocks away.
Once the cops caught up to the man, several Guardsmen spill out of the armored car dressed in military fatigues, spotting Ford with his camera, so naturally, they had to do their thing.
“Back up! Back up!” they began ordering, accusing him of “interfering.”
One of them demands to see his credentials and he shows them. Meanwhile, two Baltimore cops were sneaking up behind him.
“He’s credentialed media ….,” one of the Guardsman tells the cops behind him.
“I don’t care,” responds the cop as he grabs him from behind.
“It was very sudden,” Ford said, “But basically he grabbed my camera arm and pulled it behind me as he pushed my back down to put my face onto the pavement.”
Though the police let him go later that evening, Ford has been cited with disorderly conduct and ordered to pay a $500 fine or go to trial.
Tell Baltimore this is unacceptable. Tweet this story to @MayorSRB, @CBSBaltimore @BaltimoreSun, and @FOXBaltimore. Journalism is not a crime.
Photography is not a crime