Student photographer arrested while covering anti-war rally in San Francisco

CALIFORNIA — A college newspaper photographercovering anti-war protests in San Francisco was arrested March 20 after policerefused to recognize him as a credentialed journalist.Sacramento CityCollege student Nick Varanelli, a photographer for The Express studentnewspaper, was taking photos of an anti-war demonstration when police barricadedMission Street in downtown San Francisco and arrested 300 protesters, includingVaranelli. Varanelli said he repeatedly produced his Express press passfor the officers, who told him it would not be honored because it was notcertified by the San Francisco Police Department. He said police also threatenedto confiscate the pass if he continued to show it.Varanelli was one ofmore than 1,300 people arrested citywide in San Francisco March 20. After beingdetained for eight hours, Varanelli was charged with rioting and blockingtraffic and released. “If I did have a press pass that wasapproved by the San Francisco Police Department, they possibly would have let meout, but from what I understand it would be extremely hard to get one unless Iwas from a San Francisco newspaper that wasn’t student-run,”Varanelli said. Dewayne Tully, a spokesperson for the San FranciscoPolice Department, said although the department does issue official presspasses, other credentials are honored by officers at events that draw reportersfrom other cities, such as the protests. “We did have some caseswhere reporters were caught up in a sweep because they failed todisperse,” Tully said. “They were brought to the arrest facility,but we were able to get those reporters released.”Tully said thestandards applied to professional journalists do not always apply to students.“Generally we honor credentialed press people who work for anestablished news agency rather than for a school,” Tully said. “Inordinary circumstances, we would have accommodated the student, but in this caseI think we were looking for fully credentialed people from established newsagencies.” Tully added that while he is not familiar with thespecifics of Varanelli’s case, he could have been arrested for failing toheed the warnings of police officers or for interfering with police operationsin some way. He said police always issue three warnings to disperse beforemaking arrests.However, according to Varanelli, there were“absolutely no warnings from police.” He said he will plead notguilty at his court hearing, scheduled for June 18. If he is found guilty, hecould face a maximum of one year in jail.“I wasn’t part ofthe protest,” Varanelli said. “I was takingpictures.”