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KATV, Democrat-Gazette reporters detained during 4th night of protests in Little Rock

Images of authorities detaining two KATV journalists and an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette journalist who were covering protests in downtown Little Rock (Photos: KATV)
Images of authorities detaining two KATV journalists and an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette journalist who were covering protests in downtown Little Rock (Photos: KATV)
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Two KATV digital reporters and an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter were detained and threatened with arrest Tuesday night in Little Rock while covering a fourth night of protests in the city.

The KATV reporters, Paige Cushman and Kaitlin Barger, were following protesters who had marched from the Arkansas Governor's Mansion to the Pulaski County Courthouse. Little Rock police, Arkansas State Police and the National Guard confronted the group sometime after 10 p.m. and began making arrests.

Cushman and Barger, who write for the KATV website, repeatedly identified themselves as reporters, showed their credentials and complied with officers' orders. But they, along with about 20 others, were marched onto a bridge in Riverfront Park, forced to sit down and told they were being arrested.

The two continued to show their press credentials. They were released after about 10 minutes.

Cushman livestreamed the incident on Facebook. In the video, authorities tell protesters they're being arrested for violating the city's 8 p.m. curfew, which Mayor Frank Scott Jr. announced earlier in the day. City curfews have not applied to people working, or to people traveling to and from work. KATV reporters and photographers were on the air reporting live from other parts of the city when Cushman and Barger were being detained. One crew was at the scene of a shooting with multiple Little Rock police officers and was allowed to work without interference. Reporters were also allowed to work without interference on Monday when a 10 p.m. curfew was in place.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Josh Snyder was among those detained on the pedestrian bridge downtown, the newspaper reported. He was also released.

An officer told the group downtown that in addition to violating the curfew, they were being arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct and would be charged with "whatever else they can think of," the video shows. It was not immediately known how many were arrested.

The journalists are among dozens across the nation who have been arrested or assaulted while covering protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In Little Rock, KATV reporters have been pushed, slapped and threatened while covering the protests. A woman dumped a bottle of water on KATV reporter Shelby Rose and struck her with the bottle while she was reporting live on Saturday.

Scott Livingston, senior vice president of news for KATV parent company Sinclair Broadcasting, said in a written statement that local and state leaders should "affirm the press’ right to bear witness to important stories without harassment."

"Our station will always support the Constitutional right to protest, a fundamental pillar of our democracy," the statmeent says. "At the same time, we also recognize the necessity of a free press, something that is more important now than ever before. We ask that protesters and police recognize the important service that journalists everywhere provide, and should not be targets of anger and frustration shared by so many around the country."

The statement continues: "It is important to allow them to perform their duties, which includes sharing the message of both these protests and law enforcement to millions of people around the world. Despite these incidents, we remain undeterred, and our incredible journalists will continue to fulfill their duties and report live from the protests."

The protest Tuesday in Little Rock began at the Arkansas State Capitol, as others have. A crowd of about 150 peacefully marched to the governor's mansion, where they kneeled in front of state police troopers outside the gates.

It was a smaller crowd than previous nights. One of the organizers asked protesters to go home before the city's new 8 p.m. curfew but many refused. They chanted "no justice, no peace" as they marched toward the governor's mansion.

The crowd thinned as protesters marched back downtown to the courthouse. One person kicked a police vehicle but there were no reports of vandalism or other property damage, as there have been on other nights in the city.

Police arrested 28 protesters who blocked Broadway Street downtown earlier Tuesday. Almost all of those arrested did not resist police.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency over the protests Tuesday. The declaration says the protests, which have happened across the state, have been "overtaken by destructive and violent individuals."

KATV reporter Paige Cushman livestreamed for more than two straight hours as she covered protests Tuesday night. The full video, which ends with her and others being detained, can be viewed on our Facebook page.

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