Lawyers for an ABC reporter and civil rights groups are demanding that Denver police drop all charges against a reporter who was arrested yesterday while trying to shoot video on a public sidewalk outside the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver.
Asa Eslocker and a camera crew were attempting to film and talk to Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the hotel as part of a nightly news series on the corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors at the Democratic National Convention. Police arrested Eslocker and charged him with trespassing, failure to follow a lawful order, and interference with a police officer.
Eslocker's attorneys said Thursday that their client is "innocent of all three crimes."
"He and his news crew were standing on public sidewalks covering an event of public significance and performing a press function protected by the First Amendment," said a statement issued today by Eslocker's attorneys, Daniel Recht and Steven Zansberg.
Video of the arrest shows a cigar-smoking Denver police sergeant, accompanied by a team of five other officers, first put his hands on Eslocker's neck, then twisting his arm behind him to put on handcuffs.
"Frankly, we are outraged at the conduct of the individual officers.. Their interactions with Mr. Eslocker are captured on tape." (click here to read the full statement by Eslocker's attorneys)
Civil rights groups also reacted today saying Eslocker's arrest is the latest in a series of incidents at the DNC that exemplify an assault on the First Amendment.
"Arresting a reporter for simply doing his job is both unconstitutional and un-American," said Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "That free speech is curtailed during the Democratic National Convention underscores the need for continued protection of civil liberties, regardless of the party in power."
Reporters Without Borders echoed calls for the charges to be dropped.
"The use of unnecessary force and the arrest of a journalist who was reporting an important political story is deeply troubling and unacceptable," the group said.
Attempts by ABC News to reach a press contact for the Denver police department were not successful.
Denver police Lt. Ron Saunier told the Associated Press that "the Denver Police Department is committed to looking into each and every allegation of unnecessary force," Saunier said.
Saunier said authorities have tried to accommodate the news media this week. "One instance with the media shouldn't paint the entire event," he said.