Six journalists have been slapped with felony charges related to the waves of anti-Trump protests during the presidential inauguration on Friday, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
If convicted, the media members — named Evan Engel, Alexander Rubinstein, Jack Keller, Matthew Hopard, Shay Horse and Aaron Cantu — could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison and receive $25,000 fines. All six have denied participating in the violence. They were covering the demonstration.
Having gotten involved in the police action against demonstrators, they have been charged with the most serious level of offense under Washington DC’s law against rioting, according to the Times. Those charged include a documentary producer, a photojournalist, a live-streamer and a freelance reporter.
Around 230 people were arrested during the protest, which resulted in a limousine being set on fire and glass in a commercial building being smashed.
The arrests have sparked outrage across the country saying that the action violates the freedom of the press, with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) demanding the charges are dropped.
“These charges are clearly inappropriate, and we are concerned that they could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests,” Carlos Lauría, the CPJ’s senior Americas program coordinator, said according to The Guardian reported. “We call on authorities in Washington to drop these charges immediately.”
“These felony charges are bizarre and essentially unheard of when it comes to journalists here in America who were simply doing their job,” Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Pen America, told the Times. “They weren’t even in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were in the right place.”