Special Reports
News photographers face trial in Toledo for covering Nazi rally
News Alert

Sep 26, 2007, 00:47

Two professional news photographers are scheduled to stand trial in Toledo, Ohio, today, following their arrests nearly two years ago while covering a rally by a small group of Nazis outside the Government Center building.

Both were arrested as they photographed the events of December 10, 2005, including not only the Nazis and the noisy but peaceful crowd of anti-Nazi protestors, but also the actions of the police officers.

Police from 13 Ohio jurisdictions were mobilized to present, in the words of Toledo officials, a �show of force� with �zero tolerance� for the day. With nearly 1,000 members of law enforcement present, many on horseback, the police outnumbered both the Nazis and the protestors by approximately five-to-one.

�The arrests were an attack on freedom of the press,� said the photographers� attorney, Julie Hurwitz. �We believe the evidence will show that these professional journalists were arrested not because they violated the law, but because they were photographing an overly aggressive police response to citizens exercising their fundamental constitutional rights to protest. As a result of being arrested, they were prevented from doing their jobs of being the �eyes of the world,� and fulfilling their roles as an integral part of our communication system by which the public obtains the necessary information to be informed participants in a democracy.�

Hurwitz said, �My clients are guilty of nothing other than what New York Times editor Bill Keller said of the Times research assistant Zhao Yan, recently released from a Chinese jail, namely the �offense of practicing journalism��]

The photographers, Jeffrey Sauger of Royal Oak, Michigan, and Jim West of Detroit, are both professional freelancers with many years� experience working for a wide variety of national newspapers, magazines, and photo agencies.

At the Nazi rally, Sauger was working for the European Pressphoto Agency, which distributes photos to newspapers around the world. West was working for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization which, among other things, tracks hate groups across the country and publishes the highly respected magazine Intelligence Report, to which more than 60,000 law enforcement officers nationwide subscribe.

Sauger was arrested on a charge of �criminal trespass� as he stood in a media enclosure, carrying professional cameras and lenses photographing the scene. Police charged that he lacked a �temporary media permit� that had been issued to some journalists earlier in the day. Arriving later, carrying his own press credentials, Sauger said officers had told him he didn�t need the pass.

West was arrested as he stood, alone, taking photographs near a line of horses that was being ridden past and through counter-protesters. He was charged with �failure to disperse.�

Charges of disorderly conduct against a third news photographer, Jeffrey Willis of the Toledo Journal, have been dismissed. Willis was also arrested while photographing the police response to a crowd of anti-Nazi protesters.

�This case is important because the news media was targeted for reporting on questionable governmental activities,� said Hurwitz. �One thing that distinguishes a democratic country is the fundamental right to freedom of the press. When that goes, our basic liberties are at stake.�

The trial will be held before Judge Lynn H. Schaefer. Jury selection will begin this morning in Courtroom 7 of Toledo Municipal Court, 555 North Erie Street in Toledo. The trial is expected to last two to three days.


Three Photojournalists Arrested Covering Nazi Rally, National Press Photographers Association, December 11, 2005

Three Photographers Arrested At Ohio Rally, PDNEWSWIRE, December 12, 2005; updated December 13, 2005

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