Two journalists who were reporting on the riots in Washington, DC, on the day of US President Donald Trump’s inauguration have been charged with felony crimes that could see them imprisoned for 10 years.
Evan Engel of Vocativ, a media company that says it explores the deep web, and Alex Rubinstein of RT America, part of the Moscow-based network Russia Today, were arrested Friday and charged with the District of Columbia’s most serous rioting offenses, The Guardian reported Monday. If convicted, they could also be fined up to $25,000.
Both journalists said they showed police their media credentials but were arrested anyway.
The two were scooped up along with more than 200 other people during rioting in Washington in the hours around Trump’s inauguration. According to police, six officers suffered minor injuries.
Rubinstein tweeted a photo he said was the remains of a stun grenade police had thrown into the crowd.
Here is the flash grenade they used that blinded me and left my ears ringing. Cops encircled crowd when I couldn't see; arresting everyone pic.twitter.com/bL2ulgv9DR
— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) January 20, 2017
They were arrested at the junction of 12th and L streets in downtown Washington. After a court appearance Saturday they were released with preliminary hearings scheduled for mid-February.
Video footage from the riots showed protesters moving along streets destroying property, smashing the windows of businesses and clashing with police.
Vocativ issued a statement saying, “The arrest, detainment and rioting charge against journalist Evan Engel who was covering the protests for Vocativ are an affront to the First Amendment and journalistic freedom. Vocativ will vigorously contest this unfounded and outrageous charge.”
Engel posted a message to his Twitter account saying he would fight the charges.
Vocativ and I are fighting these charges and I’ll have more to share as soon as the legal process has run its course. Thanks all!
— Evan Engel (@evanengel) January 24, 2017
The Guardian said the police report on Engel’s arrest noted that the crowd was “organizing, promoting, encouraging, and participating in acts of violence in furtherance of the riot” and that the rioters broke windows, lit fires, vandalized police vehicles, and burned a limousine.
A spokesperson for the Washington DC attorney’s office said officials were “continuing to evaluate evidence and continuing to investigate the events of Jan 20, 2017 and are always open to receiving additional information.”