The Student Press Law Center, joined by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the College Media Association, condemns the attack on student journalists from Ohio State University who were covering a protest in Columbus on June 1.
Journalists from The Lantern were lawfully covering a protest taking place adjacent to the campus. Confronted by police to leave, the journalists responded that they were working press and exempt from the city’s 10 p.m. city curfew. They also held up their press credentials.
At least one reporter was forcefully pushed by police officers and multiple officers pepper sprayed the three Lantern staff. The incident was video recorded by Lantern staff.
“Journalists have the right — and duty — to report on protests and other public events. They have specialized protections to allow them to do their job and those rights were clearly violated by police, placing The Lantern reporters in danger. It is the job of the police to protect First Amendment rights, not violate them,” said Hadar Harris, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.
SPLC, FIRE and CMA demand in a joint letter that Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake take a stand in support of student news media and that the university leverages its influence on the Columbus Division of Police to ensure that student journalists will not be subject to pepper spray, forceful removal or other adverse actions while covering any community event. A copy of the letter was also sent to Chief of Police Thomas Quinlan.
Protests have taken place in more than 130 cities since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after a police officer used his knee to pin him by the neck for nearly nine minutes.