What Freedom?

“We’re just passing along the message – your message… I’m being arrested now.”


CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, being arrested. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/29/us/minneapolis-cnn-crew-arrested/index.html

It seems that our society is becoming increasingly more dystopian. We demand change, but see no progress. We are failing to maintain the very ideals that our country was built upon. 

There are few words that would accurately describe the arrest of Omar Jimenez and his fellow CNN crew members. Shocking? Horrific? Appalling? I still don’t know if these hit the mark. I have never seen anything remotely similar to that live news broadcast from early this morning.

The crew was simply doing their jobs and reporting the news to the American people. Suddenly, law enforcement officers are taking the reporters away into custody while the camera continues to relay the ordeal to a live audience. Jimenez was compliant, but concerned, as he calmly asked the officer, “Why am I under arrest, sir?” Soon enough, the camera pans to him being taken into custody by state patrollers with red and blue flashing lights in the distance. 

There was absolutely no reason for the arrest of this team. They repeatedly said that they would move wherever they needed to inorder to continue doing their jobs. Somehow, these crew members were arrested for expressing their First Amendment rights, but it took 3 days of protests and national demand for accountability for the officer responsible in the death of George Floyd to be taken into custody.

The racial prejudice in this nation has been exemplified once again. Unsurprisingly, a white CNN reporter, Josh Campbell, who was also at the Minneanpolis protests, was not arrested. He said that he was “treated much differently” than Jimenez, who is black and Latino. 

Worse yet, these racial injustices penetrate the White House. President Trump referred to the people protesting police brutality against black people as “THUGS”. However, on May 1st he referred to armed, white protesters who stormed the Michigan state capitol building as “very good people”. 

It is essential to understand the motivation behind both of these protests. 

In Michigan, residents were protesting against stay at home orders, and they brought weapons. It is certainly a tragedy that so many jobs have been lost and businesses are dying. But the bigger tragedy is the numbers of lives lost to the virus. The number of cases are not going to go down because of a protest. In fact, numbers would likely rise because of the lack of masks and social distancing – postponing the reopening of the economy further. 

The protests in Minneapolis occurred in an entirely different set of circumstances. Just before Omar Jimenez was confronted by state officers, the CNN commentator asked him, and viewers, to remember the “why”; the reasons for these protests. People crowded the streets to protest the inhumane death of George Floyd. They assembled to draw attention to, once again, the injustices that people of color face every day in this country. They were rising up to fight against centuries of racial discrimaination. 


The American people need to see these demonstrations in an effort to achieve racial justice. Live reporting, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are essential for that. Where are those rights when we need them most?

Journalists utilize the First Amendment rights in a way few others do. Every day, journalists harness the power of information to educate the public. The importance of understanding the news, politics, and government is immeasurable; too many people are tragically indifferent. When the bridge between the population and authority crumbles, what will happen? 

When Circuit Judge Damon Keith ruled on a First Amendment case, he coined the phrase “Democracy dies in darkness” – the adopted slogan of The Washington Post. The light that keeps our democracy intact, the journalists – our informers, is being wrongfully put out. The country that was founded on free speech needs to stop vilifying those who hold its democracy together.