Protesters, gathered in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate against the outcome of a grand jury investigation into Breonna Taylor’s death, assessed reporters gathered to cover their event, checking social media accounts in real-time and awarding “glow bracelets” to those they approved.
Despite claims that the protest was “spontaneous,” organizers apparently came prepared with a plan to separate “friendly” media from “unfriendly” or “investigative” media, as well as a collection of “glow bracelets” to hand out to reporters they felt would cover the demonstrations according to their rules and demands.
Independent journalist Ford Fischer cataloged the process on Twitter.
“The activists are looking at individual media credentials and social media accounts and giving out glow bracelets to ones they approve of. They forbid live streaming,” Fisher reported. “At least for the time being, I will refrain from streaming for my safety and add updates here.”
The activists are looking at individual media credentials and social media accounts and giving out glow bracelets to ones they approve of.
They forbid livestreaming. At least for the time being, I will refrain from streaming for my safety and add updates here. pic.twitter.com/GT1IFJM1Cx
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) September 24, 2020
It is not clear what earned a reporter the opportunity to be “credentialed” by protesters, but the system — and standards — for reporters covering anti-police brutality and anti-racism protests are not entirely new. According to an on-the-ground report from Portland, Oregon, protesters there also had a sophisticated credentialing process that ensured only friendly coverage of nightly unrest in that city.
“Groups hosting and coordinating the ongoing unrest in Portland, Oregon, have established an “approved” media list and are vetting coverage from on the ground, according to a report from Reason’s reporter on the scene, Nancy Rommelmann, and they are blocking, harassing, and even threatening “un-approved” journalists there to provide more accurate coverage of riots, looting, and violence,” the Daily Wire reported back in early September.
Rommelman reported that activists were recruiting friendly journalists into an Independent Press Corps, or “IPC,” and only the IPC was allowed to film and report on protesters’ activities.
“The IPC is an organized group in league with the activists, and it is usually their footage you see streamed online and recycled on the news: mostly innocent protestors being harassed and beaten by police,” Rommelman said.
“The IPC and other documentarians who are deemed sympathetic to the activists’ cause agree on certain principles. You do not show activists’ faces. You only show activists in a defensive position: responding to, rather than inciting, violence. You enhance what can appear to be police brutality, e.g., activists defending themselves with homemade shields, often bearing the anarchist circle-A, against police,” she continued. “The shields are largely ineffective for personal defense, but extremely effective for optics, and that’s precisely the point. If a member of the IPC is arrested, he or she will be protected.”
Robby Soave of Reason Magazine found out, quickly, what happens when even bystanders document protester violence. While following a group of marchers in Washington, D.C., Wednesday night, Soave was witness to one demonstrator smashing out a Starbucks window. After he took a photo of the damage, he was confronted by umbrella-wielding activists.
“Well everything was extremely calm until a guy with a baseball bat did this to the Starbucks off DuPont Circle. As I took this photo a protester with a black umbrella tried to block me,” Soave tweeted. Happened right in front [of] me, I nearly jumped out of my skin. Afterward I tried to reassure umbrella man that I didn’t have a photo of the window smashing guy. ‘What guy?’ he says.”
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