Andrea Sahouri Wiki
Andrea Sahouri Biography
Iowa journalist Andrea Sahouri, who was arrested while reporting on racial justice protests last summer, was found not guilty in a trial that received widespread convictions by journalism and free media.
Sahouri, a reporter for the Des Moines Register, was one of the few journalists whose charges stemming from the news of the protests following the murder of George Floyd were not denied. More than 120 reporters were arrested or detained in 2020, but in most cases, prosecutors dropped the charges.
Andrea Sahouri Arrest and indictment
Sahouri was acquitted of the crimes of fault, non-dispersal and intervention in official actions. Both served 30 days in prison.
Sahouri, who was ensuring public safety in Des Moines, was on duty for a protest meeting at Merle Hay Mall on May 31. Sahouri was with her then-boyfriend Spenser Robnett, who was there for her safety while she watched the show.
Robnett was also acquitted of both charges.
Sahouri said Tuesday that she is a journalist determined to follow the historic protests unfolding in Des Moines. The arresting officer said that when she met, he immediately introduced himself as a reporter. However, after the officer told him: “I did not ask for this,” they sprayed him with tear gas and handcuffed him.
“It is important that journalists are on site and document what happened,” Sahouri said in her testimony. “Protests broke out not only across the country, but across the world. I felt like I was playing a role in this. I know we are a small town, but I felt like I was playing a role in it. ”
Prosecutors from the Polk County prosecutor’s office tried to explain the case strictly, saying that Sahouri’s status as a journalist reporting at the scene was irrelevant to whether she had committed the protests. They argued that Sahouri and Robnett had heard orders to disperse an hour and a half before their arrest, were unable to leave the area, and tried to get away from the officer who arrested Sahouri.
But the defense said warrants before the arrests sent mixed messages in a chaotic scene. When the arrests took place, Sahouri, Robnett and another Des Moines Register reporter who was with them but was not arrested were walking away from a crowd where police fired tear gas. The defense argued that the allegation that he interfered with the arrest of Sahouri and Robnett did not generate other statements, photographs and video of the scene.
The officer who arrested Sahouri did not operate the body camera, but an officer who arrived there a few minutes after the arrest. Video seen during the trial showed Sahouri telling police officers that he was on duty repeatedly as he called for help with tear gas to his eyes.
“This is my job. This is my job,” Sahouri said. “I’m just doing my job … They sent me here … I’m a journalist.”
According to the US Press Freedom Observer, Sahouri was one of more than a dozen journalists still charged with his arrest during the summer protests. In most cases, police departments and prosecutors never fully followed up charges against a journalist after a demonstration.
David Ardia, a law professor and co-director of the Center for Media Law and Policy at the University of North Carolina, told US TODAY that trials in a case like Sahouri were “extremely rare” before trial.
Before the verdict, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, described reporters as “a kind of cop in our system of government.” Grassley said he was unfamiliar with the details of the case and what Sahuri was doing at the scene. However, he added, “if he was just following the press and not breaking any laws, just reporting, then the First Amendment should have been covered by free speech,” he added.
However, police officers stated that they were seen in body images of Sahouri and Robnett, and on a local television station that broadcast the protest during and after the announcement of the distribution orders. Police officers said protesters threw rocks and bottles of water while breaking windows and damaging other properties.
Des Moines Police Lt. Chad Steffen said he told people to “disperse” and also to leave while listening to the public address system of a crew car against the background of the image of the body camera telling them to “protest peacefully.”