For Immediate Release Thursday, August 29, 1996 Police Escalate Harassment of Independent Reporters, Activists Freelancers, organizers charge pattern of intimidation and arrests intensifies Independent media reporters from CounterMedia convened a press conference at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 29, at CounterMedia's offices in Teamsters' City, 1638 W. Van Buren, to discuss the arrest and police harassment of independent reporters and activists during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. On Wednesday evening, Chicago police stormed a media van occupied by stringers with CounterMedia, and moments later pulled them over again and illegally searched the van, threatening to ticket and arrest the driver and passengers for "not wearing seat belts." At the time, the freelancers were attempting to disembark and shoot tape of the Cash the Check demonstration at Damen and Washington. Two cameramen, both members of the CounterMedia collective, have been arrested in the last 48 hours in two separate incidents while covering demonstrations around the DNC. One reporter, Edmund Nix, was arrested Tuesday morning while shooting tape at a west side women's health clinic during an Operation Rescue demonstration. Another, Jeff Perlstein, was arrested near the United Center Tuesday evening when he attempted to interview Henry Horner residents about residents' experience with the police. Police have also repeatedly harassed members of Active Resistance, a progressive group which is holding counter-convention activities in Chicago during the convention. AR members say police have "visited" their activity site at least nine times in the last three days, have posted off-duty police officers near their space who have verbally harassed AR members and made obscene gestures at them, and have pulled over and attempted to intimidate AR conference attendees. "I suppose we should expect this kind of behavior," says one CounterMedia volunteer. "After all, it's hard to expect these guys not to revert to true form, even though their superiors have mandated them to their `best behavior' during the convention. But this kind of police activity has a chilling affect on first amendment rights, and it needs to stop. We're very concerned about this pattern of harassment and intimidation, especially given the reputation of the department for brutality." Perlstein, of Seattle, was arrested around 6:45 p.m. Tuesday evening, for disorderly conduct. Police claimed he had "crossed the line" without credentials just outside of the gate at the United Center's Lot E, the city's designated protest pit on Madison Street. Perlstein says the police ordered him off the sidewalk fronting the Lot E gate in an attempt to break up his taped interview of two children who live in the Henry Horner housing complex. Perlstein was on Madison St. awaiting the arrival of marchers from the Not on the Guest List! Coalition protest. When Perlstein stated to the officers that he had a legal, first amendment right to be on the sidewalk and tape local residents, he was put in handcuffs and taken to Precinct 13, at 937 N. Wood. He was released on $75 bond at 1:10 a.m. Wednesday morning. Earlier Tuesday morning, police arrested Edmund Nix of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, another CounterMedia video freelancer, at a clinic defense action at the A.C.T. Medical Center at 5714 W. Division. The clinic, which offers an array of health services including gynecological counseling and abortion procedures, was being blockaded by members of Operation Rescue. At about 10 o'clock, shortly after police arrested one pro-choice demonstrator, CounterMedia videographer Eddy Nix attempted to interview OR members after one pro-life demonstrator indicated to police that he should be removed. Police told Nix to leave, and when he produced his press pass, Nix was arrested and police confiscated his video camera. Nix was charged with disorderly conduct and released under his own recognizance forty-five wminutes later. Video tape of the incidents will be available at the press conference, and photos of the police actions are being posted up to the CounterMedia web site.
This news alert issued by CounterMedia, a coalition of political organizations, media groups and individuals dedicated to providing alternative coverage of the Democratic Convention and community struggle in Chicago.
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