Group calls for charges to be dropped against journalists arrested during protests

WAFB employee among journalists arrested at Baton Rouge protest

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is calling for local officials to drop charges against all journalists who were arrested while covering protests in Baton Rouge.

"While it is clear that law enforcement officials have a job to do, journalists must also be able to exercise their right to report on issues affecting the public," said Sergy Odiduro, president of the statewide chapter. "The right of the freedom of the press, which is so faithfully enshrined in our Constitution, should not be trampled on by overzealous law enforcement officials. In order to keep our citizenry informed, it is imperative that journalists be allowed to conduct their jobs without interference."

Several journalists were among the over 100 people arrested on Saturday, July 9. The journalists were there to cover the protest outside the Baton Rouge Police Department Headquarters. Most were charged with obstruction of a roadway.

RELATED: WAFB employee among journalists arrested at Baton Rouge protest

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III responded to the request to have the charges dropped:

"Each person arrested will be reviewed on an  individual case by case basis to determine the nature and degree of their criminal violation. The District Attorney, as does our local law enforcement, recognizes the right of all persons to assemble and lawfully protest. Journalists have the same duty as other citizens to comply with the laws, however we are actively reviewing these cases and all minor infractions from the preceding days will likely be resolved. Persons engaging in more violent acts, for example conduct involving assaults or gun charges or inciting others to commit felonies, will likely have to deal with the criminal consequences of their own acts."

The protest was related to the officer-involved shooting death of Alton Sterling, which happened at the Triple S Food Mart on Tuesday, July 5. People have gathered across Baton Rouge to participate in vigils and protests since Sterling's death. Things became heated, however, Friday when an unscheduled protest started outside BRPD Headquarters.

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