On January 20, during Trump’s inauguration, violent protests occurred near the inauguration ceremony. Rioters lit a limousine on fire and smashed the windows of commercial buildings. As a result, the crowd was pepper-sprayed during the event. 230 people were taken into custody, 6 of whom were journalists covering the protests. The journalists, Evan Engel, Alexander Rubinstein, Jack Keller, Matthew Hopard, Shay Horse, and Aaron Cantu, have denied being involved in these acts of vandalism or participating in the protests. However, they were charged with felonies. Rubinstein works for RT America, Keller works on a documentary series, Story of America, and Engel works for Vocativ. Hopard, Horse, and Cantu are all independent journalists. Police reports claim “the crowd was observed inciting a riot by organizing, promoting, encouraging and participating in acts of violence in furtherance of the riot.” If convicted of these crimes, the penalty incurred may be $25,000 and up to 10 years in prison. The arrest reports are unsubstantiated. The 6 journalists were released as of the 21st of January. Engel, Rubinstein, Keller, and Hopard’s charges have all been dropped. There have been no further updates on Cantu and Horse’s charges.
This violation of the freedom of the press has instilled fear in the eyes of journalists and reporters across the country. Students at Scarsdale were indignant regarding the arrests of the journalists. “No, not at all. There’s no freedom of the press. They were arrested for no significant reason,” remarked Jack Silvers ’20 when he was asked about whether the arrests were fair. The student body shares many of the same opinions as organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, who are outraged by the allegations. The committee is an international advocacy group that fights for the rights of a free press. They have written an article on the issue to spread awareness of the six journalists. On the same day as Donald Trump’s inauguration, a civil lawsuit was brought against the police department by Jeffrey Light, a civil rights attorney, over alleged arbitrary arrests of the journalists. These indiscriminate arrests have a chilling effect of curtailing first amendment rights, and only time will tell whether the press will continue to be treated in the same hostile manner. “The freedom of the press is vital to the survival of our nation, and without it, our country would crumble,” noted John Dowd ’20.
by Jacob Faierman