The following is a tread readers app rollout from a tweet series by MSNBC correspondent and anchor concerning the roll of the Press in America today. This was written a week ago, right after Velshi himself was shot with rubber bullets in Minneapolis as he covered the reactions to the death of George Floyd. (ed. note: the numbers are the tweet number and thread total – eg 1/13 means first tweet of 13 total)
Here in the U.S. we are NOT accustomed to having press freedom questioned, let alone seeing journalists come into direct physical confrontation with law enforcement. A free press is enshrined in our constitution & one of the founding principles of our nation.
As a journalist, it doesn’t matter where in the world I am, or how free the nation is: the very nature of our work—to bear witness & hold power to account—always stands in opposition to those in power. Power of all rank & stripe never enjoys being held to account.
Donald Trump has spent the last four years attacking the press for doing its job. Although some warned his comments could have dire consequences, few believed they would manifest into physical distaste for the press. But that’s exactly what’s happened.
On Tuesday night, as I stood on the permitted side of a police line, one block west of NYC’s Union Square, I asked an officer why the line was established where it was, when there was no evident risk to anyone’s safety – the standards @NYPDnews uses to establish perimeters
The @NYPDnews officer’s response was that if I continued to press the issue I might be arrested. Arrested, for asking a question.
In Minneapolis, I was hit by tear gas a few times, then by a rubber bullet. I was in a crowd upon which police were firing, so it’s likely the police has no idea we were a team of journalists. The first time…
Minutes after being struck by the rubber bullet and retreating, we encountered police another intersection. We approached slowly, with our hands in the air, announcing, “We’re media.” They heard us & responded, “We don’t care”, and opened fire again.
Since 5/26, per @pressfreedom, 300+ journalists have faced “press freedom violations,” incl. several of my @NBCnews colleagues who were targeted or incidentally hit by police projectiles: @edouphoto & @MicahGrimes in Minneapolis, @GarrettHaake in DC, @jolingkent in Seattle
Nearly all of us, except those seriously injured, went back into the field, because we exist to bear witness & hold power to account. Because it is our duty to tell the public of this country what authorities are doing, ostensibly, in their name.
At no point was there any threat of violence from the journalists, or any other threat. Unless, of course, you consider coverage by the media itself a threat.
In this heated moment, we must continue to remember that there are some police who entered the profession to honorably serve & protect, and continue to do so. I have longtime personal friends whom I know to be good cops.
What police depts. & police unions don’t seem to ever want is scrutiny. They don’t like it from their chiefs, they don’t like it from civilian review boards, they don’t like it from their mayors & they certainly don’t like it from the media. But they work for the public.
Scrutiny is what we in the media do. Without scrutiny, and the ability of the media to bear witness, accountability dies.