Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide) today introduced a resolution to protect journalists, legal observers, and medics from being harmed during protests. Mosqueda also requests the City Attorney’s Office withdraw support for enforcement of a Seattle Police Department subpoena that infringes on the freedom of press.
“Members of the press should never be seen as an extension of the police and must always be seen as separate and free from the government. Journalists and legal observers should never be intimidated or targeted as they cover protests, and medics and firefighters should be free from harm when caring for protesters. This resolution condemns any intentional targeting of press, legal observers, or medical personnel, who have the right to document police conduct during protests and care for those in need. It’s appalling that the City Council has to affirm basic human rights while we are in the midst of a civil rights awakening combined with overlapping crises, including a deadly pandemic, economic collapse and ongoing affordable housing crises,” Mosqueda said.
The resolution aims to affirm the free press’ right to cover protests in the community. During Black Lives Matter protests in Seattle, journalists have been subject to tactics that serve to intimidate and discourage reporters from performing their job responsibilities to observe these events and report them to the public. Local media outlets have said the ruling for local media to turn over photos and video taken of protesters to SPD threatens journalists’ role as neutral observers, and erodes trust between the public and local media.
The resolution would also apply to legal observers and medics, who are at the protests to ensure the legal rights and safety of protesters, but have also been subject to gassing, flashbangs, arrests and intimidation. Reports from this past month include legal observers who have been targeted by police, and medics trying to aid protests being pepper sprayed in the face.
This legislation follows a similar resolution championed by Commissioner Eudaly of the Portland City Council which passed unanimously July 22, 2020.