...there'll be no peace
Having arrived home in Los Angeles, exhausted after a turbulent year working on the streets of Hong Kong; I anticipated a quiet summer spent in the warm embrace of friends and family. What I found was a long-overdue reckoning over the conduct and methods of American policing. The streets of America, like those of France, Hong Kong, Sudan, and, many other countries around the world were filled with angry citizens demanding systemic change from the power structures within their respective societies; each motivated by their own set of injustices. I found Streets fogged in tear gas, overrun with police eager to exert force over a populace who would no longer tolerate extra-judicial murder as an acceptable by-product of the broken institution of policing. Nor would they tolerate, for another minute, a deeply compromised system of justice that has aided and abetted those murders and other assorted acts of violence and terror for generations.
On June 2, 2020, I was arrested along with three other journalists and dozens of civilians. We were all cited for a curfew violation while covering protests in Hollywood. The arrest was illegal, violating my rights both as an Angelino and as an American journalist. As a credentialed journalist, I was exempt from the curfew in Los Angeles County that night. The charges were subsequently dropped by the LA City Attorney, setting a dangerous precedent for the removal of journalists from the field. Here is my account of that arrest from Press Freedom Tracker:
Independent photojournalist arrested for curfew violation in Los Angeles
June 2, 2020
Independent photojournalist Aaron Guy Leroux was arrested while covering protests in Los Angeles, California, on June 2, 2020.
Protests that began in Minnesota on May 26 have spread across the country, sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest the day before. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Leroux told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was walking west on Sunset Boulevard with a colleague approximately 40 minutes after the L.A. County’s 6 p.m. curfew — which explicitly exempted credentialed members of the media — went into effect. He said that two Los Angeles Police Department officers had already checked his press pass and allowed him to continue reporting.
As they rounded the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street, where LAPD officers were arresting demonstrators, an officer asked if they were press, and they said they were.
“As we were exiting the scene, one last LAPD officer asked again, ‘You press?’’’ Leroux said. “I said, ‘Yes sir.’ He took a look at my credentials then grabbed my elbow and said casually, ‘You’re gettin’ arrested.’”
“I spent the next three hours getting arrested, searched, transferred, processed and cited for ‘curfew violation,’” Leroux told the Tracker.
Leroux noted that his camera bag was thoroughly searched by the officers, but he does not believe any of his photos were deleted. His colleague — whose identity could not be verified as of press time — was also arrested.
At around 9:45 p.m Leroux was released from police custody with a citation for curfew violation, a photograph of which he shared with the Tracker.
The LAPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On June 8, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that she will not prosecute citations for violating curfew or failing to disperse, while Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said he would resolve cases involving peaceful protesters in a “restorative approach” outside of the court system.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred total incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country related to the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Find all of these cases here.
In regards to my arrest, while I was happy to have no charges filed against me, the net result appears to have created a method by which the LAPD or LASD can now, legally, remove any journalist from the field by arresting them, releasing them, and then the office of the City Attorney can exercise their prosecutorial discretion and decline to file charges. On June 2, 2020, the day of my arrest, though a city-wide curfew had been activated, credentialed journalists were exempted from this curfew, yet this exemption was willfully ignored. By arresting credentialed journalists covering the protests, and then releasing them, the law enforcement agencies working in LA county have created a method of skirting press freedoms. These actions by Los Angeles law enforcement agencies and the LA City Attorney set an ominous president for the future. It is now possible for Law Enforcement to legally hide newsworthy stories or incidents from the media and by extension from the scrutiny of the public.
Downtown, Los Angeles: Ronald Joseph Barber, 71. Retired Master Sergeant 101st Airborne; Vietnam from 67'-69'. Ronald lost his right eye, his right knee, and the right testicle in the war. When he told me he was in Vietnam in 1968, I asked him how he thought our current situation compared to 1968. “It’s worse,” he said without even thinking about it. “It like we were fighting for nothing over there.” Citizens participate in a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest on the fifth day of demonstrations against continued police violence and murder in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minnesota Police. June 3, 2020-Los Angeles-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA