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News ::
UMass Student Journalist Assaulted by Police
04 Oct 2000
Modified: 07 Oct 2000
UMass Junior Chris Garner had worked hard on the student newspaper to get his press pass for the Presidential debate on his campus. When he photographed police confronting protesters outside, one officer grabbed his neck and shoved him. Another pushed him against a metal guardrail. A third told him, "so, is this your press credential? Well, consider it revoked," and ripped the cord from his neck. Then police hit a young woman with a club.
BOSTON, Oct. 3 - UMass Junior Chris Garner had worked hard to get his press pass to enter the Boston Presidential debate on his campus. He's calendar editor of the student newspaper, "The Mass Media" and editor of the state school's yearbook. As one of the few students allowed inside with the yellow press credential necklace, when he left afterward and discovered hundreds of protesters outside, he decided he needed to photograph police confronting them with barricades and horses. One officer of the peace grabbed his neck and shoved him. Another pushed him against a metal guardrail. Garner told them he's a student and waved the press pass dangling around his neck. A third of Boston's finest told him, "so, is this your press credential? Well, consider it revoked," and ripped the metal cord from his neck. Then he saw police hit a young woman with a club.

"It all fell apart; any confidence I had in the system, in justice, in the political scene. I played by the rules. I was totally harmless. I'd shaken hands with a Clinton Press Secretary. I was trying to document the debate," said Garner, a South Boston resident.

Garner had strayed from the pack of journalists after the debate ended. He wanted the story others might miss. Pro-democracy demonstrators carried placards reading "Test market catchy slogans and call it your 'vision for America.'" Pro-Nader demonstrators chanted "open the debate." People representing the Boston communities of Dorchester and Roxbury had marched from Dudley Square in a rally for more spending on health care, education, and housing, instead of spending to build new prisons. He got close to getting that story. And then he was pushed into it.

"Then I was forced into the protest by the police when they ripped my press badge off and pushed me into the demonstrators. Police brutality needs to be ended in this country. John Stuart Mill told us about the value of dissenting opinion. But are they worthy of being police when they can't comprehend basic civil liberties? They not only violate civil rights, they're negating the foundation of America and everything we've worked for in this country."

"When will we start looking at things like this going on in the greatest country in the world? It almost makes me hopeless. They tell you in high school and grade school that this is the way things should be: in
America we vote and your opinion matters. Seems like the older we get, the further those things seem from the truth. I'm an honors student. Where am I at now? After what happened I feel violated, stripped. And I realize I'm only one person. This happens every day in poor countries and much much worse. And that oppression is supported by us in the U.S."

"People have something to say and they're being shut out. All we want is a voice."
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Comments

It's only a matter of time...
04 Oct 2000
It's only a matter of time before some dumb cop screws up and assaults a member of the mainstream press. Sure, they're a business interest - but they don't have a particularly cozy relationship with cops....

I wish Chris all the best.
To Chriss
04 Oct 2000
Work hard Chriss. Tell this story far and wide and organize with all the people who have the most to gain from the creation of a truely democratic and decent society, so unlike the one we have now. jamie
We have a voice
04 Oct 2000
We do have a voice and I hope you keep using yours to pass this story along. I know that I will use it as an example of the injustice used to break up our First Ammendment rights. Best of luck to you. Abbie Rhoad
Credentialling
04 Oct 2000
I was at a press conference at the White House back in 1995 during the governement shutdown where the uniformed secret service yanked the credentials of the Washington Post's main white house reporter for getting too close to Dick Armey's car. The entire group of reporters began yelling and someone got Mike McCurry, the then WH spokesperson, to get her credential back from the secret service. Of course by then, the republican leaders fled without having to answer reporters questions.

I also have a photo somewhere of a secret service hand over my camera as the agent did not want me, with a mainstream press credential, taking pix from the particular place I was.

Police are always giving the press, even the corporate press a hard time. My ass-umption in this case is that the police, not ones to respect the rights of anyone, saw a kid with credentials that could be issued from the IMC or other non-corporate source or even forged, and decided he should not be extended the rights guaranteed him.

Getting credentialled with the various outlets that give a journalist a modicum of legitimacy (ie not get regularly kicked away from scenes by police) is often self-monitored and prevent alternative outlets--or even alternative media like the internet-- from gaining access. The self monitoring basically keeps the reporter who is afraid for job security from giving access to those threaten their livelihood.
See also:
http://www.gridlockmag.com/poparchive/winter/fracas.html