CJFE's Promotions and Communications Coordinator provided a video update from the site of the arrests in DC.
We are deeply concerned by the criminal charges brought against two American journalists who covered protests during the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January. Aaron Cantú, a staff writer for the Santa Fe Reporter and editor at The New Inquiry, faces a felony charge of rioting, which carries a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted; while professional photographer Alexei Wood faces a statutory maximum of more than 70 years in prison on additional rioting and destruction of property charges.
On January 20, over 230 people were arrested for their alleged involvement in the protests, including five other journalists whose charges were subsequently dropped. Cantú and Wood covered different areas of the inauguration protests in Washington that day, fulfilling their rightful duties as journalists as afforded by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Wood was covering a portion of the protests known as the black bloc, where marchers fully clad in black clothing and face masks were seen moving down the streets of downtown Washington smashing windows and vandalizing property. Wood can be heard on his livestream video of the protest making commentary but not partaking in any destruction or vandalism.
The livestream of Wood's involvement covering the J20 protests.
Cantú was indicted earlier in June by US attorney Channing Phillips on eight charges, including two felony violations of the Riot Act. A status hearing for his case has been scheduled for October 27 along with a motion hearing for April 6, 2018. His jury trial is set to begin on October 15, 2018. Wood, along with more than 130 other defendants, has signed onto a ‘Points of Unity’ agreement, pledging not to cooperate with prosecutors or accept any plea deals.
We urge authorities to drop all charges against the journalists and to respect the basic freedom of journalists to report on public interest protests. The charges against Cantú and Wood come at a dangerous time for free expression in the U.S., as bills designed to discourage protesters with severe prison sentences have been proposed in several states. As warned by the United Nations in March, if such bills are passed they will be in violation of international human rights law.
A copy of this letter was sent to Elizabeth Moore Aubin, Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy of the United States of America