HuffPost reporter Chris Mathias was taken into custody Saturday while covering anti-racism protests in New York City.
Mathias, a senior reporter who covers the far right, disinformation and hate, had been reporting for days on the protests, prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He was in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn when police took him into custody.
Mathias was released Sunday around 1 a.m. after being taken to the 72nd Precinct in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn.
Police have aggressively cracked down on the protests ― and journalists covering them ― in multiple cities during a nationwide uprising against racism. Thousands of people gathered in cities across the U.S. Saturday to demonstrate against racism and police brutality, days after Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Floyd, who was Black, repeatedly said he could not breathe and eventually became unresponsive.
While journalists worked to cover protests, some faced arrest while doing their jobs. Police arrested CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez while they covered protests in Minneapolis on Friday morning. Las Vegas police arrested two photojournalists, Las Vegas Review-Journal staff photographer Ellen Schmidt and freelancer Bridget Bennett, on Friday as well, along with about 80 protesters.
Some reporters in Minnesota said they were hit with rubber bullets, while others were hit with tear gas. Freelance photographer Linda Tirado was shot in the eye while covering protests in Minneapolis. A journalist in Louisville, Kentucky, shouted “I’m getting shot!” as she was hit with pepper bullets on live television.
Many journalists targeted said they were clearly identified as such; Jimenez was delivering a report on live television when police arrested him and two crew members. Mathias identified himself as a journalist while at the protest and was wearing a press badge.
Reporter Phoebe Leila Barghouty tweeted that she saw the NYPD “violently arresting” Mathias and others as they tried to clear a street.
“They grabbed Chris aggressively and turned him over on either a car or a barricade to zip tie. I believe he was yelling, ‘Let me get my phone,’ but they obviously didn’t [let him] and they just took him away from there,” Barghouty told HuffPost. (Mathias’ wife told HuffPost his phone had been knocked out of his hand.)
Barghouty said she never saw Mathias provoke or be aggressive with police.
Danny Gold, a journalist and documentary filmmaker who witnessed the incident, said “there should have been no doubt among police that he was press.”
“It was an extremely chaotic situation, but Chris was clearly wearing his press [badge] and identifying himself as a reporter,” Gold said.
A spokesperson with the New York City Mayor’s Office told HuffPost via email that they “apologize” for what Mathias “experienced tonight.”
HuffPost Executive Editor Hillary Frey emphasized that Mathias was just doing his job when he was taken into custody.
“Chris Mathias is a dogged, empathetic reporter who was arrested on Saturday night while doing his job as a journalist,” Frey said Saturday. “We are alarmed that police would treat him or any other clearly credentialed journalist in this manner, and prevent them from documenting the protests happening here and around the country.”
HuffPost’s union, organized under the Writers Guild of America, East, also condemned the arrest.
“Tonight a member of our unit was arrested with his press badge clearly displayed,” the union said in a statement. “We condemn in the strongest terms law enforcement interference with our right to do our job.”
Andy Campbell and Elise Foley contributed reporting.