Video sheds light on what really happened when Dover Post photojournalist was arrested at protest.

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This article has been updated to reflect new information learned after this story was originally published.

A Dover Post Photojournalist was attacked, detained, and held for up to two hours by police while covering a protest in the Dover area Tuesday evening.

Dover (DE): Andre Lamar, who has covered many demonstrations in Kent County since the George Floyd protests started breaking out around the country, was tackled by a Dover Police officer while doing a live broadcast as protesters were being detained and arrested.

Lamar is a staff photographer for the Dover Post. Dover Post is a sister company of the Delaware News Journal/Delaware Online, and is owned and operated by Gannett Newspapers/USATODAY Network.

After several videos surfaced on social media following Lamar’s arrest, many are wondering why protesters were even arrested, and the events that led up to the heated physical exchange with police. While members in the group claims they were simply exercising their first amendment rights, Delaware State Police say they were obstructing traffic, becoming aggressive with officers, and yelling obscenities on Rte 13 near the state capitol.

Poynter Institute suggests journalists covering civil unrest to identify themselves to police when arriving at an unrest however, it is not clear if Lamar did that or not.

There appears to be two more videos from Dover Post that was shot live on June 9, 2020 at this same protest. The first video shows Lamar and protesters face to face in the roadway. The second video was a live shot of demonstrators and himself being arrested, and the third video is following his release. In that video, Lamar is seen in Delaware State Police Troop 3 in a long rant about the ordeal. Police eventually asked Lamar to leave the building.

In the end, all three videos raises some level of ethical questions.

POLICE: “The incident escalated with protesters becoming disorderly.”

Photo: DSP Spokeswoman Melissa Jaffe

Delaware State Police, who initially would not respond to reporters for comment on the incident, said, “The individuals were advised multiple times by Law Enforcement Officers the protest was not lawful because it was obstructing traffic and to exit the roadway and move onto the shoulder.”

According to police spokeswoman, Melissa Jaffe, “The incident escalated with protesters becoming disorderly. Protesters then refused to allow a Dover Police Officer in a marked police vehicle to proceed through. Once the officer exited the patrol car, individuals became disorderly.”

Police say initially the group of approximately 40 individuals were protesting in the city limits of Dover but then expanded out towards South DuPont Highway (U.S. 13) southbound. Th group eventually ended up in the area of the Camden Wawa shortly after 6:00 p.m. and that’s when things started to heat up between protesters and police.

Jaff said “One of the 22 individuals detained was a media reporter. The reporter was taken into custody by an officer of the Dover Police Department and transported to Delaware State Police Troop 3 with the other detained individuals. As a result of the investigation, the media reporter was released with no charges filed.”

Delaware Attorney General, Kathy Jennings Responds.

Photo: Kathy Jennings

Shortly after 10:30 p.m., Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings said she “has been clear with law enforcement that I do not believe civil disobedience should be treated criminally and that peaceful protesters should not be harmed.”

“People have a right to free speech and to peaceable assembly in this country and our goal – regardless of their message or their ideology – is to ensure that they can exercise that right safely. Period,” Jennings said. “We’ve spoken with law enforcement and that reporter has been released and will not be charged.”

The Delaware Department of Justice said it could not comment on any other events at the protests as the department is “still getting the facts.”

In the second video released by Dover Post, you can see protesters being detained by police, some are on the ground with their signs that laid nearby. Lamar, who doesn’t appear to be interfering with police and narrating the footage, is heard saying, “The police have arrested protesters, we don’t know why they arrested them, they slammed them to the ground.”

“It was kind of like a big melee and then I saw protesters just getting taken down by police and they were getting slammed down to the ground, women were getting slammed down to the ground,” Lamar said. “People were having their arms twisted behind their backs like pretzels, they were just getting jerked really hard.”, Lamar told the Dover Post.

After asking officers repeatedly why the protesters were being arrested, Lamar is then tackled from behind. Somehow he managed to get his camera to flip over and film his own arrest. He is heard screaming, “I’m with the press, I’m with the press” as he is being handcuffed.

In the video, you can see a Dover Police officer searching and confiscating his camera bag and press credentials, before saying, “There’s no one here to help you, the best thing for you to do is keep quiet.”

“I get tackled down to the ground and I couldn’t see it, but I know that I felt at least two bodies on me,” Lamar said. “I have really long hair all the way down to my waist and that was getting pulled as they had me on my stomach.”, Lamar told the Dover Post.

Update (06/14/20: However, a video not previously seen on social media by our staff  when this story was originally published, revealed what really was happening on the evening of June 9, 2020 when police decided they’ve had enough.

The video also supports police initial claims that the incident escalated when protesters became disorderly. In a previous release from police spokeswoman Melissa Jaffe, “The incident escalated with protesters becoming disorderly. Protesters then refused to allow a Dover Police Officer in a marked police vehicle to proceed through. Once the officer exited the patrol car, individuals became disorderly.”

In the beginning of the Live-feed video from Dover Post photojournalist, Andre Lamar, it is quite clear how intimidating and threatening the group had become. As Lamar walks along the line of police officers, you can see protesters and himself in the faces of police officers. It is said that Lamar was not wearing press credentials at this time. Dover Police later released drone footage showing Lamar reaching into his camera bag and pulling out his press credentials. By that time it was too late as police say they did not know who he was or why he was reaching into his bag, Lamar was immediately taken down, cuffed, and detained.

Dover Police spokesman, Mark Hoffman, said, “It’s a matter of getting the entire situation under control. With that many people and the potential for anything to happen, security is paramount.”

“The journalist was not wearing credentials up until the moment you see him pull them out and they were not visible to the officer. When taking a person into custody, you must secure them to ensure everyone’s safety.,” said Hoffman. “Our officers do not have interactions with the media and are not familiar with media members. Anyone in that situation can say they’re press.”

Delaware Newsline was able to verify Hoffman’s statement. In the first video, Lamar is seen not wearing press credentials as he narrates the live video. He is also seen in this video face to face with police with his camera alongside protesters. While we were reviewing the video, we also noticed the group including Lamar is also in the roadway.

Dover Police Responds: “Our officers do not have interactions with the media and are not familiar with media members.”

When asked why the officer continued to arrest Lamar even after being told several times he was a member of the press, Hoffman said, “It’s a matter of getting the entire situation under control. With that many people and the potential for anything to happen, security is paramount.”

“The journalist was not wearing credentials up until the moment you see him pull them out and they were not visible to the officer. When taking a person into custody, you must secure them to ensure everyone’s safety.,” said Hoffman. “Our officers do not have interactions with the media and are not familiar with media members. Anyone in that situation can say they’re press.”

USA TODAY: “These attacks on journalists absolutely are unacceptable and absolutely must be stopped.”

USA TODAY Network President Maribel Wadsworth called the arrests of journalists covering protests “unacceptable.”

Photo | USA TODAY Network President Maribel Wadsworth

“We have seen incident after incident over the last many days of reporters, photographers, other journalists on the front lines of this coverage being arrested, yes, but worse, being pepper sprayed, hit with rubber bullets,” Wadsworth told USA Today. “These attacks on journalists absolutely are unacceptable and absolutely must be stopped.”

She added, “When law enforcement are trying to keep journalists from reporting on the news as it’s happening, they’re going against our very constitution. The journalists are there to document the story. The journalists are there to shine a light on what’s going on. We absolutely will defend every one of our journalists with the full weight of our company to ensure the freedom of the press in this country.”

Gov. John Carney, when he learned of Lamar being detained, said on Twitter that reporters have a “fundamental right to cover the demonstrations” in Delaware and across the country. They should not be arrested for doing their jobs. That’s not acceptable.”

Photo: Governor John Carney

Mike Brickner, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, echoed Carney, saying his organization was “very disturbed by events that happened tonight.”

“The Constitution guarantees a free press and reporters have a right to cover what’s going on our community,” Brickner said. “Obviously, the protests around police violence and the killing of George Floyd are incredibly important to many people in our community, so it’s vital that press have access to cover those issues.”

In a previous release, Jaffe said, “The protesters congregated with other persons in a public place and refused to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse.” As a result, 22 individuals were taken into custody and detained. Of those 22 individuals, 20 were arrested and two were released with no chargers. The chargers included Disorderly Conduct when Refusal to Disperse (All 20 Individuals), Disorderly Conduct by Obstructing Vehicular Traffic (All 20 Individuals), Disorderly Conduct by Obstructing Pedestrian Traffic (All 20 Individuals), Disorderly Conduct by Fighting or Violent Tumultuous or Threatening Behavior (All 20 Individuals), Resisting Arrest (4 Individuals), Hindering Prosecution Prevent or Obstructs by Force (3 Individuals).

When asked about the second individual who was released without charges, Delaware State Police would not comment any further. “We will only be providing information that was issued in the press release at this time.”, Jaffe said.

As journalists ourselves, it’s a mystery why Lamar was even in the center of the protest with demonstrators. While each media outlet may have their own policies on covering civil unrest including protests, a Poynter Institute guide for covering protests clearly suggests that you shouldn’t draw attention to yourself and stay on the edge of crowds. The guide also mentions that using a smaller camera could lead you to being mistaken as a demonstrator by police.

Poynter says “Have credentials easily available. But think carefully about whether you display credentials openly when surrounded by demonstrators. Do not hang credentials on a lanyard around your neck. It can be used to strangle you in a scrum.”

covering-conflict-safety

As for the videos, this is not how we conduct ourselves as journalists. We do not get in the faces of law enforcement. While covering civil unrest such as protests and riots, we try not to get in the center of the crowd and many photojournalists will tell you this is not a smart thing to do, especially during a riot. Since the George Floyd protests have taken place all over the country videos and reports have surfaced showing demonstrators not only are targeting police but also members of the press…and anyone with a camera.

Absolutely Shocking! It’s like asking for a response from police! This is not how journalists are supposed to be conducting themselves. It stands against everything we do. While documenting activities, we try our best not to become part of the news. If a journalist becomes part of the news, then an error was obviously made by someone., said George Shea, publisher at Delaware Newsline.

Delaware Newsline reached out to Lamar for comment but he has not responded as of this update..

All of the individuals were arraigned before the Justice of the Peace Court and released on either their own recognizance or unsecured bond.

U.S. police have attacked journalists at least 140 times since May 28

Journalists across the country have had run-ins with police since the George Floyd protests began following the 46-year-old’s May 25 death. Attacked by not only police but also protesters.

Recent incidents of journalists attacked, detained, and/or arrested covering the George Floyd protests:

June 2, 2020: Independent photojournalist arrested for curfew violation in Los Angeles: Independent photojournalist Aaron Guy Leroux was arrested while covering protests in Los Angeles, California.

June 1, 2020: Reporter detained while covering Oakland protests: Police briefly detained KPIX 5 News reporter Katie Nielsen while she was documenting protests in Oakland, California.

June 1, 2020: Asbury Park Press journalist arrested covering protests, released the next day: Gustavo Martínez Contreras, a multimedia journalist with the New Jersey daily Asbury Park Press, was arrested while covering an anti-police violence protest in Asbury Park .

June 1, 2020: Cincinnati Enquirer journalist detained as cameras roll: Cincinnati police temporarily detained Enquirer journalist Pat Brennan as he covered protests against police violence in the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood.

June 1,2020: A reporter for the Wilmington News Journal, Jeff Neiburg, and photographer Jenna Miller were detained by Philadelphia police during a protest in the city. The journalists were arrested even though they showed police their press credentials. They were released without charges after being detained for at least two hours.

As of this morning, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is working to verify more than 405 total press freedom incidents that have been reported over the last two weeks from media covering national George Floyd protests. (May 26-June 11). Those incidents include assaults, arrests, damage to news gathering equipment and targeted crowd-control measures such as tear gas, pepper spray and projectiles.

Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist Barbara Davidson said, “I think the police see journalists as attacking their tribe – they feel they are getting a lot of bad press because of what happened to Floyd and so I think they are retaliating against us.” Davidson was attacked on Saturday evening in Los Angeles.

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Delaware Newsline is a digital Delaware News Organization that provides local and national breaking news content to its Delaware and U.S. audience, by utilizing multiple platforms including web, social media, and video.

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