Some folks making a documentary about U.S. politics, which will include the ongoing "Moral Monday" protests in North Carolina, posted footage of Charlotte Observer reporter Tim Funk's arrest last night at the N.C. General Assembly.
Funk was arrested after General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver gave the crowd several orders to disperse. You can hear Funk tell the arresting officer, "I'm a reporter. I was just interviewing them. ... I didn't know that would mean me. ... I was just interviewing them, come on. ... Please, please, please."
An officer takes Funk's notebook(s?) and puts it away as the arrest occurs. The chief aids in the arrest.
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Funk is a religion reporter, and Monday's protests featured clergy from around the state. He's not normally at the General Assembly.
I've covered one of these protests myself. Police make it clear they want media to stand together in a fairly crowded corner as the arrests occur. Weaver announces several times, on a bullhorn that people standing in the atrium between the House and Senate face arrest if they don't disperse. Even so, as a reporter, I wondered just what would happen if I didn't disperse. If I tried, as Funk did, to interview people shortly before their arrest.
I didn't press it, but figured an officer would come up and ask me specifically to move, but not arrest me since I was wearing a media I.D. badge and clearly wasn't protesting anything. As Funk said, "I didn't know that would mean me."
I guess we know now that it does.
Weaver said police need "a secure area" to work in during these protests, which are quite crowded.
"If you've got one media there, all media's entitled to be there, right?" Weaver said this morning, in a telephone interview. "They were given three orders to disperse ... and he refused to do that."
But that refusal wasn't specific, Weaver acknowledged. It's not like Funk told an officer, "no." He simply "stayed among the people," Weaver said.
"Two officers had just went to the front of that crowd and cleared media," Weaver said. "All the other media had moved back and have (during) every other event. ... We've got a perimeter set so we can have a safe working environment."