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Assault on journalists doing their job is unacceptable

[su_label type=”info”]Staff Editorial[/su_label]

A screenshot of Guardsman photographer Natasha Dangond being struck by Sheriff’s Deputy Osha during a protest at City Hall on May 6. Video by Cece Carpio.
A screenshot of Guardsman photographer Natasha Dangond being struck by Sheriff’s Deputy Osha during a protest at City Hall on May 6. Video by Cece Carpio.

Anyone who reads El Tecolote regularly will know how frustrated our community is with San Francisco law enforcement, and they will know the reason why.  We have devoted extensive coverage in our pages to the fatal shootings of Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Mario Woods and most recently Luis Gongora—all of whom were men of color, and all of whom were killed by SFPD officers.

No disciplinary action has been taken with any of the officers involved in the shootings, and yet controversy has swirled around each of the incidents, with the SFPD account (which is always that lethal force was necessary because officers’ lives were threatened) proving inconsistent with independent autopsies, or eyewitness accounts, or both.

Following the death of Gongora on April 7, community frustration boiled over into action, a group of activists later dubbed the “Frisco 5,” denounced the SFPD and declared that they would take no solid food until Chief Greg Suhr was fired.

Over the course of the strike there were multiple demonstrations of community solidarity, which drew hundreds of demonstrators, several included marches to City Hall to petition the mayor directly.

During one such demonstration on the night of May 6 protesters clashed with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department at City Hall. Sheriff’s deputies arrested 33 demonstrators who were lawfully expressing their discontent and, in a fit of authoritarian passion, attempted to intimidate reporters who were covering the melee.

Deputies assaulted at least four journalists (two who were El Tecolote staff photographers), even though their press credentials were plainly visible. Sana Saleem of 48hills was reportedly shoved against a desk, sustaining bruised ribs, even after she repeatedly identified herself as a member of the press.

El Tecolote photographer Joel Angel Juárez, whose body of work includes traveling to Greece and covering the plight of refugees, was pushed down a short set of marble stairs without warning, his camera crashing against the floor.

With her slender stature, Natasha Dangond, a photographer with CCSF student publication The Guardsman, posed absolutely no physical threat to anyone in City Hall that night. And yet a deputy with the surname Osha must have felt otherwise, as he somehow found it necessary to bash her over the head with his baton.

All of these journalists who were attacked, were at City Hall to document a moment in history, in hopes of telling a story. They never intended to become a part of that story, and they never should have become part of it.

This sort of conduct by officers of the law, who are supposed to protect the public, is simply unacceptable. What’s even worse is that they targeted journalists specifically to prevent them from documenting history.   

This is not a good look for San Francisco. And it’s not the way in which business is conducted in a free society.  A free society is predicated on an informed public and an informed public requires a free press. Our nation’s founders thought freedom of the press important enough to enshrine it in the very first amendment of the constitution. But apparently the deputies disagree.

Story by: Staff