Amy Goodman and two of her colleagues of Democracy Now were arrested at the Republican Convention in 2008 in St. Paul while they were reporting about a peace march. The case set off a wave of protests that forced the police to release them. Over 40 reporters were arrested at that weekend. Democracy now sued the police and the secret service. They won an agreement that the police had to develop a protocol in dealing with reporters. An important success, says Goodman as the police has become increasingly militarized. She is concerned about the violent repressions of the authorities against the Occupy movements in the country. "This all has to be challenged, because we are talking about a crackdown on an overwhelmingly peaceful movement."
Amy Goodman: founder, producer and host of the newscast Democracy Now, Right Livelihood Award laureate, author of "The Silenced Majority", New York City
David Goessmann: You and other Democracy Now journalists were arrested at the last Republican Convention four years ago. What happened there and put in context of crackdown on critical media in the United States.
Amy Goodman: I am deeply concerned about the violent backlash by the authorities against Occupy movements around the country, against any kind of dissent. On 9/1 2008 I was at the Republican Convention, it was the first day, it was labor day in the United States and I was there with my colleagues of Democracy Now and we covered a big peace march in the morning, 10000 people march led by soldiers, some of them were in full uniform, protesting the wars. Some had served, some had refused to serve and they marched to the convention center. When we got there I went inside to interview delegates within the convention and my colleagues went to the TV-studio to digitize tape. And I got a call a few hours into my interviews from our senior producer, he said: "Come quickly to 7th and Jackson", a corner in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the convention was taking place. We raced to the corner, came out of the convention center, riot police had surrounded the area, I demanded to be able to see them, that they should be released because they had full credentials like I did. I am wearing the police credentials that they give us. And they ripped me through that line, it wasn't seconds before they ripped me through the line, twisted my arms back put the handcuffs on, threw me up against a car or wall and onto the ground. And they charged me with a misdemeanor - interfering with a police officer. If only there was a police officer in the vicinity. I demanded to see Sharif (Abdel Kouddous) and a colleague, I could only see Sharif across the parking lot. He was standing bloodied with his hands behind his back, I finally was brought there, we stood there. He had his credentials on as well, we demanded to be released and the secret service came. And they ripped the credentials from around our necks. So we're standing there, I am put into the police wagon , there is Nicole (Salazar), her face is bleeding, and she described what happened. They had run down from the TV-Station because the commotion riot police came at the reporters, at them, and as she shouted "Press!, Press!", holding up her press pass and holding up the camera. She didn't plan to film her own violent arrest, but that is exactly what happened. The riot police came at her, hit her from behind and front, on the ground, on her face, knee or boot in her back, pulling on her legs so they're dragging her face. And the first thing to go down was her camera. And they pulled the battery out of the camera, if you're wondering what it was they wanted to stop happening. So, Nicole and Sharif were sent to jail, they faced riot charges. I was put in the police garage, where they erected cages to put the protesters in. But the response of people around the country to our arrest, they got thousands of emails, tweets, calls, faxes until the authorities had to release us hours later. But, more than 40 reporters were arrested that week. That night I was brought to the convention centre, because the networks wanted to interview me. I was in the NBC Skybox, you know, they are the ones to do the Olympics, and when I finished an interview an NBC reporter came over and said "I don't get it, why wasn't I arrested?" and I said "Oh, were you out covering the protests ?" and he said "No". 90% of life is just getting out there, I don't get arrested in the Skybox either. And it's our job to go to the convention floor, get the word of the delegates, go into the corporate suites, who is sponsoring the Democrats and the Republicans Conventions. And get out in the streets where thousands of uninvited guests are. They have something very important to say as well. Democracy is a messy thing, and its our job to capture it all. The next day I went to the police chief's news conference, who said our police operation was very successful. And I described what happened to Sharif and Nicole and me, and I said "What have you instructed your police to do ? And how do you expect us to operate in this environment?" And he said, we could embed in the mobile field force. Embed! You know, like reporters embedded in the front lines of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am not saying reporters aren't brave, who do that. But you're only covering the war from one perspective, from the trigger end of the gun. You're sleeping with the troops, you're eating with them, your life is in their hands. How do you think it will mainly be covered, I mean, then you have to embed people in Iraqi hospitals, and Afghan communities, and the peace movement around the world to understand the full effects of war. I think the embedding process has brought the media to an all-time low. And the idea that they're using this flawed model of reporting and bringing it back into the United States and saying "That's the way we have to cover American cities", is not acceptable. The next day I saw a Fox-reporter in the middle of a - oh, he responded we could embed in the mobile field force and I saw this Fox-reporter in the middle of this mobile police unit and they're going down the street together. No, we have a different role to play and we shouldn't have to be embedded in order to get out the truth. We shouldn't be embedded in troops, in wars, and we shouldn't be embedded in the establishment in Washington. That's what happened to us and we sued the Police of Minneapolis and St. Paul and the Secret Service and we won a big financial settlement. We won the agreement that police would develop a protocol in dealing with reporters. We were not alone, there were more than 40 reporters who were arrested that week and then you move on to the Occupy movement. You see how many thousands of people have been arrested in this country. How many reporters have been arrested? When we won our settlement we held a news conference at Zuccotti Park at the Occupy encampment, which was surrounded by police to send a message to police as we move into the Republican and Democratic Conventions in Florida and North Carolina and cover the elections, that it is not acceptable to put those covering these events that are supposed to celebrations of democracy, to handcuff democracy. No, it's not acceptable. We have a law in the United States called Posse Comitatus that says that soldiers can't march through the streets of the United States. And that's a good thing. I think the authorities are getting around that by militarising the police. So you don't have the soldiers but the police are so militarised that they are like soldiers. They've got billions of dollars since 9/11, since the attacks, they have drones in local police departments, they have tanks, they have levels of surveillance we have not seen in this country before. And this all has to be challenged, because we are talking about a crackdown on an overwhelmingly peaceful movement.