Nearly six months after the U.S. Capitol riot, the Justice Department has begun arresting a new category of alleged criminals — those who attacked reporters or damaged their equipment as journalists documented the violence perpetrated by supporters of President Donald Trump.
The first such charge came last week, when 43-year-old Shane Jason Woods of Illinois was charged with engaging in violence on the Capitol grounds Jan. 6, as well as assaulting a law enforcement officer. Authorities say Woods was caught on video knocking down a cameraman.
The arrests come at a contentious moment for the Justice Department and First Amendment advocates, who have sharply criticized federal law enforcement for secretly issuing subpoenas of reporters’ phone records during the Trump administration.
On Thursday, FBI agents arrested a Covington, Va., man for allegedly destroying journalists’ equipment. Joshua Dillon Haynes was charged with smashing their gear outside the Capitol and bragging about it in a text to a friend. Haynes was the fifth person arrested in connection with attacks on the media in a little more than a week.
“We attacked the CNN reporters and the fake news and destroyed tens of thousands of dollars of their video and television equipment here’s a picture behind me of the pile we made out of it,” he allegedly messaged the person, according to court papers.
While Congress was the central focus of the rioters’ anger that day, many in the mob expressed disgust for journalists, with one person scrawling “murder the media” on a congressional door.
“The vilification of the media that we saw from the previous administration was incredibly concerning, and that played into a longer arc of rising anti-press sentiment across the country,” she said. “Jan. 6 showed that what the administration says about the media does matter, words do matter, and can have very negative, very real impact on reporters and their ability to do their jobs safely.”
Chase Kevin Allen, a 25-year-old man from Seekonk, Mass., was arrested this week on charges of engaging in violence and destroying property on the grounds of the Capitol. According to FBI papers filed in court against Allen, he was seen on video stomping on reporting equipment as a large group of individuals swarmed several reporters and drove them away. In one video, a person who appears to be Allen is seen cursing and yelling for the journalists to leave the area.
After his arrest, Allen spoke to reporters outside his home, saying he was a documentarian who went to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to observe and record what happened, and compared himself to a reporter. Speaking without a shirt, revealing a chest tattoo that said, “Vanilla,” Allen declined to comment about the specific allegations against him. “I’m working everything out with the courts and whatnot,” he said.
Earlier in the week, the Justice Department charged a woman with disorderly conduct and trespassing after videos showed her egging on an attack on a New York Times photographer inside the Capitol during the rioting. Investigators say that in one of the videos, Sandra Pomeroy Weyer of Mechanicsburg, Pa., can be heard calling the photographer a traitor and urging others to “get her out” and “mace her.” —Washington Post