A former Maine journalist was arrested Saturday while attempting to cover a protest in Lynwood, California.
Josie Huang, a reporter for NPR affiliate KPCC, described in a series of tweets Sunday how she was detained by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies after videotaping their interactions with protesters.
Prior to working for KPCC, Huang spent at least a decade in Maine writing for the Portland Press Herald and producing for Maine Public, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Police claimed Huang, who also reports for LAist, didn’t have credentials and ignored demands to leave the area, the Washington Post reports.
Before the protest, Huang attended a news conference alongside dozens of other reporters at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, where doctors were treating two officers who had been shot in the head in an ambush earlier that night, according to the Post.
After the press conference, Huang returned to her car to speak with an editor over the phone when she heard loud shouting outside the parking garage and went to see what was happening.
“I had on a lanyard around my neck with a press ID,” she tweeted.
She found a few men waving flags outside and taunting deputies. She stood off to the side, filming the protest on her phone. Some men later dispersed and deputies began following one man down the street, she said.
Huang followed behind, using the zoom function on her phone to capture the incident while maintaining her distance.
As deputies pursued a couple of people, they shouted at Huang to back away from the scene but there was “nowhere to back up,” and she was being shoved within seconds, she recounted.
Along with her tweets, Huang included video footage she’d taken on the night of the protest which showed deputies approaching her and knocking the phone out of her hands.
“I’m a reporter … I’m with KPCC!” Huang can be heard shouting in the background as deputies arrested her.
Huang said she was held in custody for five hours and deputies refused to uncuff her to let her put a face mask back on.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department claimed that Huang, who was charged with obstruction, ignored deputies’ orders to stay back and interfered as they attempted to arrest a protester. The department also said she “did not identify herself as press,” and “later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person.”
Huang said in a tweet that she identified herself as press and wore a press badge around her neck.
An independent monitor who oversees investigations into the sheriff’s department has launched a probe into her arrest, the Post reports.
“What surprises me the most is that once she was identified as a reporter that they transported her, that they cited her,” L.A. County Inspector General Max Huntsman told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday.
NPR officials have called for Huang’s charges to be dropped.
“Her arrest is the latest in a series of troubling interactions between our reporters and some local law enforcement officers,” Herb Scannell, chief executive of Southern California Public Radio, said in a statement to the Times.
“Journalists provide an essential service, providing fair, accurate and timely journalism and without them, our democracy is at risk,” Scannell said.