An officer detained and handcuffed a Black Wall Street Journal reporter outside of a Chase Bank, raising First Amendment concerns and illustrating a growing hostility towards journalists across the nation from local law enforcement. As a result, the Wall Street Journal is demanding answers from the Phoenix Police Department.
The Journal reporter Dion Rabouin was involved in an incident with the Phoenix officer in late November. However, news of the incident only broke this week after ABC affiliate KNXV reported on it. The Journal said in a statement that it is “deeply concerned” about how its reporter was treated and has requested a police investigation.
“No journalist should ever be detained simply for exercising their First Amendment rights,” The Journal said.
A Phoenix Police Department spokesperson stressed that the incident occurred on private property. The Department of Justice is investigating whether its officers retaliate against people "for conduct protected by the First Amendment." The department has nonetheless shared concerns raised by the paper with the Professional Standards Bureau and is investigating.
The underlying issue of this particular matter is the result of a rather innocent piece of journalism. During the Thanksgiving holiday in Arizona, Rabouin, a Black man, approached passersby outside a Chase branch to conduct an interview about savings accounts, according to a Phoenix-based affiliate.
He identified himself as a journalist when bank representatives approached him and asked what he was doing. In Rabouin's account, he was never asked to leave, but an officer arrived shortly after.
Bystander video shows an officer handcuffing Rabouin, putting him in the back of a police truck, and even threatening to shove him in if he didn't comply. Rabouin repeatedly identified himself as a reporter for The Journal in the video, but the officer appeared unconcerned.
Since 2020, at least 218 journalists have been arrested in the country, according to the US Press Freedom Tracker.
In a statement, Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said, “the alarming number of incidents we’ve seen over the last several years where police have detained, arrested, or assaulted journalists who were doing their jobs threatens to chill this kind of essential newsgathering.”
Dion Rabouin's case illustrates how law enforcement's intimidation of journalists intersects with their anti-Black racism. The police must be held accountable for the terrorist acts they commit on a daily basis.