ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (AP) — Police have arrested several people during protests in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, including two journalists who were covering the demonstration the day after a district attorney cleared sheriff’s deputies in the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr.
The two journalists who were arrested Wednesday night work for the USA Today Network, according to news outlets.
William Ramsey, executive editor for USA TODAY Network’s Southeast Central region, identified the journalists as reporters Ayano Nagaishi and Alison Cutler. Ramsey tweeted they were released about 10:45 p.m.
Elizabeth City Police Chief Eddie Buffaloe did not immediately return a phone call and email from The Associated Press seeking comment on the incident.
Both reporters were wearing bright yellow vests that say “News Media.” A video that Nagaishi posted on Twitter showed that they told police several times they were journalists who were covering the event for USA Today and The News Leader of Staunton, Virginia.
In the video, Nagaishi and Cutler ask officers why they are being detained. An officer tells them that they were standing in the middle of the roadway.
Elizabeth City police had declared the protest an unlawful assembly at 8:27 p.m. The News Leader reported that police threatened to arrest protesters under a law that prohibits standing, sitting or lying on a street or roadway.
Nagaishi and Cutler briefly walked into Main Street to film and watch one of the arrests happening.
Ramsey tweeted that the journalists, who had traveled from Staunton, “were doing a public service” and that being taken into custody “will not stop them from doing their jobs for readers.”
The News Leader reported that it’s not clear whether either of the journalists will be charged.
Demonstrators had gathered to protest a prosecutor’s decision that sheriff’s deputies were justified in fatally shooting Brown in April because the Black man struck a deputy with his car and nearly ran him over while ignoring commands to show his hands and get out of the vehicle.
Attorneys for the family who watched body camera footage have said repeatedly that he was trying to drive away from deputies serving drug-related warrants and posed no threat.