Immobilized: Denver Police Use Pepper Spray Against Journalist

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At latest count the Denver Police say they have made 152 “DNC-related” arrests during the Democratic National Convention. They also report an incident where pepper spray was used on a limited basis, “when a protest crowd that had gathered Monday night near Civic Center Park refused to disperse and suddenly rushed a police safety line about 7:15 p.m,” according to a Denver Police Department press release. Additional incidents of pepper spray being used against protesters have been reported by Bob Hennelly on WNYC, New York Public Radio and in the Rocky Mountain News.

One person who was pepper sprayed was not a protester, but an Arab American journalist, and a member of the Feet in Two Worlds/New York Community Media Alliance group in Denver to cover the convention. Antoine Faisal, publisher of Aramica, was hit with pepper spray despite the fact that he was wearing press credentials, and repeatedly held them up to show police officers that he was a member of the press.

Throughout the confrontation with police Antoine took photographs, many of himself reacting to and recovering from the attack. He also made an audio recording of the incident on a mini digital recorder in his pocket. He had forgotten to turn the recorder off after an earlier interview, and inadvertently captured audio as the events unfolded.

He was helped to safety by a man whose name Antoine never learned.

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Listen to Antoine narrate his recording here.

[audio:http://www.xrew.com/joceimgs/FI2W/fi2w_dnc_082808_AntoineNarratesRecordingBounce.mp3]

The first account of this incident appeared early Tuesday morning on the Irish Echo blog, posted by another member the group, Peter McDermott.

The police presence on the streets of Denver has been massive during the Democratic National Convention. While most of the interaction between police officers and the public has been cordial there have been some notable exceptions. The Denver Post reports that a producer for ABC TV, Asa Eslocker, was arrested on Wednesday, “outside the Brown Palace Hotel as he attempted to chronicle attendees at a private breakfast held by a Democratic Party campaign committee.”

In a separate incident on Wednesday witnessed by this reporter, members of the media and other convention attendees were verbally harassed by police officers as they stood in line to go through a security check-point at the Pepsi Center, where the convention was being held. Officers yelled at people to, “move, move, move,” despite the fact that there was no apparent emergency. When one man casually stepped out of line, an officer made a menacing gesture toward him and barked, “sir, I’m watching you.” A TV cameraman was ordered to turn off his camera. Officers did not explain the reason for the order.

Listen to Antoine Faisal narrate a slide show of the confrontation. Selected images from his experience are posted below.

[audio:http://www.xrew.com/joceimgs/FI2W/fi2w_dnc_082808_AntoineInterview.mp3]

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