HuffPost US reporter Chris Mathias was taken into custody Saturday while covering anti-racism protests in New York City.
Mathias, a senior reporter who covers the far right, disinformation and hate, had been reporting for days on the protests, prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He was in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn when police took him into custody.
Mathias was released Sunday around 1am local time after being taken to the 72nd Precinct in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn.
Reporter Phoebe Leila Barghouty tweeted that she saw the NYPD “violently arresting” Mathias and others as they tried to clear a street.
“They grabbed Chris aggressively and turned him over on either a car or a barricade to zip tie. I believe he was yelling, ‘Let me get my phone,’ but they obviously didn’t [let him] and they just took him away from there,” Barghouty told HuffPost. (Mathias’ wife told HuffPost US his phone had been knocked out of his hand.)
Barghouty said she didn’t see Mathias provoke or act aggressively towards police.
Mathias identified himself as a journalist while at the protest and was wearing a press badge, which can be seen hanging from his neck in the photo below.
Danny Gold, a journalist and documentary filmmaker who witnessed the incident, said “there should have been no doubt among police that he was press.”
“It was an extremely chaotic situation, but Chris was clearly wearing his press [badge] and identifying himself as a reporter,” Gold said.
A spokesperson with the New York City Mayor’s Office told HuffPost via email that they “apologise” for what Mathias “experienced tonight.”
HuffPost executive editor Hillary Frey emphasised that Mathias was just doing his job when he was taken into custody.
“Chris Mathias is a dogged, empathetic reporter who was arrested on Saturday night while doing his job as a journalist,” Frey said Saturday. “We are alarmed that police would treat him or any other clearly credentialed journalist in this manner, and prevent them from documenting the protests happening here and around the country.”
HuffPost US’s union, organised under the Writers Guild of America, East, also condemned the arrest.
“Tonight a member of our unit was arrested with his press badge clearly displayed,” the union said in a statement. “We condemn in the strongest terms law enforcement interference with our right to do our job.”
Mathias was one of many journalists targeted by police during nationwide protests against racism.
Some reporters in Minnesota said they were hit with rubber bullets, while others were hit with tear gas. Freelance photographer Linda Tirado was shot in the eye while covering protests in Minneapolis. A journalist in Louisville, Kentucky, shouted “I’m getting shot!” as she was hit with pepper bullets on live television.
Thousands of people gathered in cities across the U.S. Saturday to demonstrate against racism and police brutality, days after Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Floyd, who was Black, repeatedly said he could not breathe and eventually became unresponsive.
Andy Campbell contributed reporting.