Charges against Georgia student journalists arrested in Occupy protests will be dropped, mayor says

GEORGIA — Charges against two student journalists arrested last year while covering Occupy Atlanta protests will be dropped, the city’s mayor said Saturday.

Mayor Kasim Reed told journalists at a National Association of Hispanic Journalists conference Saturday that he only recently learned of the charges against Judy Kim, a photographer for Georgia State’s The Signal, and Alisen Redmond, an editor with Kennesaw State’s The Sentinel.

Reed was responding to a question from Emory journalism professor Hank Klibanoff.

“I was just curious after all this why the mayor had not acted,” Klibanoff said in an interview Monday. “He surprised me and said, ‘I have. I did it just yesterday.’ I asked him why only yesterday. He said ‘I just found about it, I got a letter about it.’”

After the two were first arrested last year, the Student Press Law Center wrote to Reed asking him to have the charges dismissed. Earlier this month, several journalism organizations, including the SPLC, sent Reed a second letter asking him to dismiss the charges.

When Klibanoff asked why it took so long, Reed said that “it is a big city,” but that once he found out about the charges, he asked the city solicitor to dismiss them.

Kim and Redmond spent 14 hours in jail and were cited for obstruction of traffic, though police had blocked off traffic on the street where they were arrested. They identified themselves as reporters and had press passes.

A third working journalist, an intern for Creative Loafing, was also arrested while covering the protests. The charges against her will also be dismissed.

At an August hearing in Atlanta Municipal Court, advisers for the two student journalists testified to their professionalism.

Sandra Michaels, an attorney who represented all three journalists, said they are waiting now for the charges to be officially dismissed. Sunday, Raines Carter, city solicitor of Atlanta, confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the charges would be dropped.

“I’ve not received an official dismissal,” Michaels said Monday afternoon. “The judge sent a letter going ‘hey, if you’re dismissing, I need a letter dismissing it.’”

Bryce McNeil, The Signal’s adviser, said up until Reed’s announcement, he wasn’t optimistic the charges would be dropped.

“It was almost a full calendar year until it happened,” McNeil said. “It’s amazing that it took that long for it to get sorted.”

Since the Occupy protests began, five college journalists have been arrested while reporting on the events. In September, John Bolger of Hunter College’s The Envoy was arrested and released while covering the movement’s anniversary.

By Jordan Bradley, SPLC staff writer. Contact Bradley by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 124.