CALIFORNIA — A student multimedia journalist was releasedfrom jail 20 hours after being arrested while filming a peaceful protest thatturned into a dangerous riot.
Cameron Burns, an 18-year-old reporter with the University of California -Berkeley’s student newspaper the Daily Californian, was arrestedMarch 4. Burns said he followed a group of protestors he was filming with hisportable video camera onto a highway on-ramp. Protestors were demonstratingagainst education budget cuts and tuition increases in California.
Burns said he followed a group of 150 people that split off from the otherprotestors for about 10 minutes until he realized the group was on the freewayand he tried to get out of the way.
“I went to the back of the group and tried to ask the policemen howto get off, ‘what should I do, I am a reporter,’ but theyweren’t listening they just saw us as a bunch of hooligans on the freewayand they needed to get us off,” Burns said.
The next day, Burns was released from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, Calif. Heis charged with unlawful assembly (Cal. Penal Code 407) and obstructing a publicplace (Cal Penal Code 647.C) and his arraignment is set for April 6, DailyCalifornian Editor-in-Chief William Kane said. The majority of the groupthat veered onto the freeway were arrested, Kane said.
The Daily Californian is seeking advice from the university’spublic affairs office and California Senator Leeland Yee’s staff, and isin the process of obtaining an attorney, Kane said.
“I am hoping that if the [Alameda County District Attorney] sees thepress and the articles — a lot of people have picked up on this story — that they will flag it themselves and Cameron will get a nice lettersaying that the charges have been dropped,” Kane said.
Alameda County Sheriff’s Department did not return phone calls bypress time.
Burns forgot his Daily Californian press passduring the protest and said at the time, he thoughtthe police could tell him apart from the other protestors because hewasn’t wearing a bandana like the majority of thecrowd, or inciting the police. He said in hindsighthe realizes he should not have stepped onto the on-ramp without his presspass.
“Then again, Idon’t think the press pass that I had would have been paid attention to bythe police officers because the camera I had was this little Flip video cameraand the [professional] news people like NBC, ABC, CBS they would have largercameras with the corporate logo on it,” Burns said.
University of California -Berkeley Executive Director of Public Affairs Dan Mogulof said policedepartments outside the university may not honor Daily Californian presspasses.
Another issue that needs to be resolved “is thatthe students working for the student newspaper are also credentialed in a waywherein if they are covering protests off campus that might be under thejurisdiction of a separate law enforcement agency that this kind of thingdoesn’t happen again,” Mogulof said.
Kane said he hopes the district attorney will honorthe fact that even though Burns did not have his press pass, he was there tocover the story.
“We want to make it very clear to everyone thatCameron was on the job, he was a journalist, he wasn’t there toparticipate in the protest, he was there to cover [it] objectively anddoesn’t deserve to be penalized for that,” Kane said.