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Lawsuit Challenges Police and Secret Service Crackdown on Journalists Covering Protests at Republican National Convention

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CONTACT: press@ccrjustice.org

May 5, 2010, Minnesota and St. Paul, MN —Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) with co-counsel De Leon & Nestor and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, filed a federal lawsuit against the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments and officers, the municipalities, the Ramsey County Sheriff and unidentified Secret Service personnel. The lawsuit challenges the policies and conduct of law enforcement during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in 2008 that resulted in the unlawful arrests and unreasonable use of force against the plaintiffs, three Democracy Now! journalists: Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar.

Said award-winning journalist and plaintiff Amy Goodman: “We shouldn’t have to get a record to put things on the record. This is not only a violation of freedom of the press but a violation of the public’s right to know. When journalists are arrested, that has a chilling effect on the functioning of a democratic society.”

Goodman v. St. Paul seeks compensation and an injunction against law enforcement’s unjustified encroachment on First Amendment rights, including freedom of the press and the independence of the media. Attorneys say the government cannot limit journalists’ right to cover matters of public concern by requiring that they present a particular perspective; for instance, the government cannot require journalists to “embed” with state authorities. Goodman further asserts that the government cannot, in the name of security, limit the flow of information by acting unwarrantedly against journalists who report on speech protected by the First Amendment, such as dissent, and the public acts of law enforcement.

“The media are the eyes and ears of the American people—that is why there are laws to protect them,” said CCR attorney Anjana Samant. “Law enforcement and Secret Service agents are not exempt from those laws in their dealings with un-embedded journalists who are documenting peaceful protestors or law enforcement’s use of force and violence against those protestors.”

“The protests on the streets outside the convention center are just as important to the democratic process as the official party proceedings inside,” said journalist and plaintiff Sharif Abdel Kouddous. “Journalists should not have to risk being arrested, brutalized or intimidated by the police in order to perform their duties, exercise their First Amendment rights and facilitate the rights of others to freedom of speech and assembly.”

“The video of my arrest and of Amy’s mobilized an overwhelming public response,” said journalist Nicole Salazar. “The public has both an interest and a right to know how law enforcement officials are acting on their behalf.  We should ask ourselves what kind of accountability exists when there is no coverage of police brutality and intimidation."

For more information on the case, visit CCR's legal case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.