PITTSBURGH (CN) – A reporter for conservative radio’s “The Alex Jones Show” and Inforwars.com filed a federal complaint over his arrest while covering the 2009 G-20 Pittsburgh Summit and resulting protests.
Rob Dew says he was arrested while “openly wearing press credentials and carrying a professional grade video camera,” then imprisoned for over 12 hours and “forced to sit outdoors in cold and rainy weather, despite wearing only a tee-short and shorts.”
The “pandemonium” broke out at on Sept. 25, 2009, the second and final day of the conference, in which 20 finance ministers and central bank governors meet to discuss the financial markets and world economy.
Dew says he was part a three-man journalist film crew covering the summit on paid assignment for Free Speech Systems, which is the parent company of Infowars.com and “The Alex Jones Show.” Jones, a syndicated talk-radio host, is often described as a right-wing conspiracy theorist, though he calls himself a libertarian and champion of civil liberties.
At the time of his arrest, Austin, Texas-based Dew was working for Jones’ program and website as “a paid correspondent, camera man, producer, editor, documentary film-maker, and production manager,” according to the complaint.
In an interview with Jones posted on YouTube, Dew says he went to the University of Pittsburg campus because he heard about an ongoing police-brutality protest.
There, he found 500 police officers, “fully armed in their battle gear,” using LRAD sound cannons to disperse the activists and carrying batons, pepper spray and shot-gun canisters. He added that there were closer to 1,500 cops as the night wore on.
Dew said he watched as police let one reporter with a press pass leave, but that he was not permitted to exit. He said police corralled and blocked people into a park after the protesters had already dispersed, telling them to leave and then attacking them when they tried to do so.
In his lawsuit, Dew says that, “despite the fact that he was a professional journalist on paid assignment to cover the G-20 Summit and the resulting protests, he was wrongfully detained, falsely arrested, and wrongfully imprisoned on the night of September 25, 2009 and the morning of September 26, 2009, during the mass arrests carried out on the lawn of the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.”
The charges for failure to disperse and disorderly conduct were later withdrawn, according to the complaint.
Dew notes that the entire time he was covering the summit, “while video taping events and conducting interviews, he wore a clearly visible press pass, which identified him by name as a professional journalist for Infowars.com.”
“At the time of his arrest, he was not engaged in any criminal activity, he was not engaged in a protest, he carried no sign, shouted no slogans or chants, sang no songs, or in any other way took part in the protests,” according to the complaint. “At no time was he engaged in any disorderly conduct. At all relevant times, Mr. Dew’s actions and speech were exclusively confined to his role as an investigative reporter, camera-man, documentary film-maker, and producer for Free Speech Systems, LLC, Infowars.com, and the Alex Jones Show, filming both the protesters and the police response, and conducting interviews, all of which are First Amendment protected free speech and free press activities, while wearing clearly visible press credentials. There was no basis to suspect, or any reason to believe, that he was engaged in any criminal activity.”
The complaint details Dew’s activities leading up to his arrest, from a morning spent at Wal-Mart to an afternoon covering a different protest in Oakland. When he was being arrested, Dew said he tried to tell officers that he was the press and that they gave him rotten food during his detention. Dew also invites people to see the footage he taped of his arrest on YouTube.
“Arbitrary arrest of professional journalists who are covering political events and filming police crackdowns and mass arrests of protesters is a hallmark of oppressive and totalitarian regimes the world over, and such arrest of journalists is incompatible and antithetical to a free society with a free and vigilant press, serving to chill both free speech and free press activities,” according to the complaint. “The arrest, detention, and imprisonment of Mr. Dew while acting as a journalist amounted to retaliation for exercise of constitutionally protected First Amendment rights and false arrest and malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
Dew seeks punitive damages, alleging violation of free speech; unreasonable search and seizure; false arrest and false imprisonment; retaliation; malicious prosecution; failure to train, enact, and implement policies and supervise.
He is represented by Elmer Rhodes III of Kalispell, Mont.