NEW YORK — A JJIE reporter assigned to cover the protests in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was arrested at approximately 8 p.m. Central Time Sunday and freed on bail at about 3 p.m. CT Monday.
In an interview after the arrest, the reporter, Karen Savage confirmed that she had been arrested despite identifying herself as a member of the press.
Savage, 50, a student at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, said she was never told by police why she was being arrested or what the charges against her were at the time of her arrest. Savage spoke while in handcuffs before she was taken away by the police.
“They didn’t tell me anything,” she said. “I told them I was a member of the press and the officer said, ‘It doesn’t matter.’”
She was one of at least several dozen people being arrested. It is unclear if any other members of the press were arrested aside from Savage.
Savage was on assignment to cover the protests that have been taking place in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II.
She had reported from the protest the night before without incident.
Savage, like any reporter, is entitled to cover a newsworthy event, said Leonard Witt, the executive director of the Center for Sustainable Journalism, the publisher of the JJIE.
“We do believe that all reporters have the right to cover protests, and CUNY is in the midst of retaining legal representation to insure that her rights have not been infringed upon and that her constitutional rights are protected,” he said.
Repeated calls to the Baton Rouge Police Department’s public information office, non-emergency number and chief’s office were not answered.
Marco Poggio, another JJIE reporter and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism student assigned to cover the protests, said he was on the phone with Savage after she had been arrested and she told him the officers had her near the highway. When he arrived she was sitting on a sidewalk in handcuffs near the corner of Government Street and East Boulevard near the entrance ramp to the I-10 highway.
Poggio said he tried to take pictures and shoot video but he was ordered to leave. “A cop told me I had to go away or I was going to get arrested too,” he said.
A police wagon picked her up and took her away about an hour after the initial arrest, but none of the officers at the scene would say where they were taking her, he said.
Aiesha Savage, 20, one of Savage’s daughters, said she was texting her mother off and on throughout the day including after she had been arrested. She became worried when her mother stopped responding.
“My mom, she is passionate about getting people’s stories out there,” she said. “The police don’t want anyone telling their stories. My mom was just being a good reporter.”
Her voice shook as she talked about her mother’s arrest from her home in Boston.
“I’m definitely shaken by this,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen now. I don’t know when she’s going get out. I don’t know what they’re going to do to her.”