Around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 25, the Omaha Police Department kettled a group of over 100 demonstrators, medics, and journalists on the I-480 overpass at the intersection of 29th and Farnam streets. After a nearly hour-long march through downtown, where demonstrators proceeded unmolested, they were two blocks away from their planned dispersal point when the police moved in to arrest them en masse.
Volleys of pepper-balls were shot into the chests and backs of peaceful demonstrators as others were tackled by scores of police armed with SWAT weapons, ballistic vests, and helmets. Pepper-balls were also fired into crowds of sitting demonstrators, some of whom were children and young teens, and multiple others were dragged away, some of them bleeding.
Fellow Workers Mel Buer, Ashley Darrow, and Kristofer Nivens, along with independent journalists Jazari Kual and Peyton Zyla, were detained with the rest of the group despite repeatedly declaring themselves to be members of the media and producing credentials or other evidence. FW Buer was also violently thrown to the concrete by an officer for continuing to film the chaotic scene.
At least two of the detained journalists recorded the police loudly declaring that their press credentials were invalid and that officers were acting on “intel that they have fake press cards.” It wasn’t until a lieutenant with the Omaha Police Department arrived on scene that four of the detained journalists were allowed to leave. A fifth journalist was arrested and charged with failure to disperse and obstructing traffic.
This egregious display of violence and aggression against members of the independent press is a clear violation of their First Amendment rights. Journalists from across the United States are being brutalized, detained, and arrested for shining a light on the violence that police perpetrate in their communities.
The Industrial Workers of the World Freelance Journalists Union stands in solidarity with the many journalists who risk their lives and freedom to continue covering these historic events. We will not be intimidated. We will continue to record and report on the corrupt systems of power that brutalize our communities every day.