Liz Foster ’22
We should be angry. We, as a nation, should be angered, frustrated, and devastated by the current state of our country. Now is not the time to be passive. Now is not the time for “All Lives Matter” when black lives are most at risk. Now is not the time to ask what a person is doing to warrant their murder at the hands of officers who chose to “defend” themselves over protecting their citizens. Now is not the time to trivialize or antagonize black Americans and their allies. Now is not the time to say “calm down.”
The National Guard has been brought into multiple cities across the country. Cities are enforcing curfews starting as early as 5:00 pm. Police forces are unleashing rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray upon crowds that are entirely non-violent. Violence and looting have repeatedly been started by white people in these protests, but the blame is put entirely upon black people. A tent of nurses aiding injured protestors was shot at by police. Protestors are repeatedly noting an escalation in protests after the arrival of police. Citizens not affiliated with the ongoing protests have been injured and arrested. Citizens with their hands in the air are being forced to the ground and beaten with batons by officers.
As a student journalist, I also cannot ignore the attacks on media sources attempting to cover protests in various cities. CNN reporters have been arrested on live television while surrounded by cameras with microphones in hand.
While watching a live stream from White House correspondent Hunter Walker, I digitally first-hand witnessed Secret Service agents push him back along with the rest of the crowd. Walker yelled that he was a journalist and was authorized while displaying said badge. The officers continued to push back and the stream ended shortly; Walker was not attacked or injured. Linda Tirado, an author, activist, and journalist, was blinded in her left eye by what she assumed was a rubber bullet. Michael Adams, a reporter for VICE News, was pepper-sprayed and thrown to the ground by an officer who responded with “I don’t care” to his repeated shouts of “I’m press! Press!”
The arrests and injuries of these reporters by no means outweigh or are equal to the systematic racism that has led to the arrest, injury, and death of countless black Americans. There is typically no target senselessly placed upon the backs of journalists in the same way as black citizens.
However, these attacks on the media are a dangerous indicator that the police force is not here to protect its people. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black once said “the press was to serve the governed, not the governors.” When important, historical events are happening, the press’s duty is to report on the subject. Silencing the press is threatening and antithetical to the right to free speech that Americans so proudly tote around.
It is considered a violation of international law when American members of the press are detained, arrested, and injured by violent forces in other countries. How is it acceptable when members of the American police force do so?
The President most recently threatened to severely regulate or fully abolish social media platforms. If the official press is physically threatened and harmed and the platforms that everyday citizens employ to raise awareness of injustice, how can the United States claim to promote freedom of speech?
When unarmed Americans peacefully protesting face rubber bullets and tear gas, how can the United States claim to be a country that values and protects “the right to assembly?” When citizens are murdered in the street just for being black, how can we claim justice and liberty for all?