Activist Reporter Sues State Patrol Over Occupy Ban

UPDATE 2: In a follow-up call to PubliCola, KBCS News Director Sonya Green said Canfield is “no longer a volunteer” at the station, and was “banned” from reporting for KBCS a year ago. She could not comment on why Canfield was banned.

When contacted about the ban, Canfield disputed that he was representing himself as a member of KBCS’s reporting staff. “I was not working for KBCS,” he said. “The issue there is that in alternative media, [reporters] wear whatever press credentials they happen to have with them.”

Canfield also said he did not know KBCS had officially banned him. “I chose to leave,” he said. “If they banned me, it was after I left.”

Canfield also said a judge issued a temporary restraining order, halting the WSP’s 30-day ban, this afternoon. Canfield said he plans to return to the capitol in the next 24 hours.

UPDATE: According to KBCS News Director Sonya Green, Canfield “was not representing” the station when he attended the protest in Olympia. Green says another reporter from the station was covering the protests, and Canfield was not assigned to the story.

When asked if KBCS has any  guidelines on when reporters can use their station press credentials, Green says “It’s hard to regulate it. I’m sure people pull [them] out all the time.”

A Seattle reporter has asked a federal judge to stay trespassing citations written to dozens of Occupy protesters, who were arrested during protests in Olympia last week.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Tacoma this week on behalf of Seattle reporter Mark Canfield—a freelance journalist who has volunteered KBCS radio and Free Speech Radio News, the Huffington Post and Daily Kos—says Washington State Patrol (WSP) Chief John Batiste, an assistant chief, a captain and more than two dozen unidentified officers—violated protesters’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they arrested and banned Canfield and dozens of other protesters from the Capitol campus late last month.

The WSP trespass warnings ban Canfield and the protesters from the Capitol for 30 days, or “the entire period of the current special legislative session,” the suit says. Canfield now faces arrest for returning to the Capitol “whether he is engaged in otherwise lawful, constitutionally protected speech … or simply walking his dog,” the lawsuit says.[pullquote]Canfield now faces arrest for returning to the Capitol “whether he is engaged in otherwise lawful, constitutionally protected speech … or simply walking his dog,” the lawsuit says.[/pullquote]

According to the suit, Canfield traveled to Olympia on November 28 to attend a protest on cuts to public safety, education, and social services. Canfield—who was wearing his KBCS radio badge, the suit says—entered the capitol’s Legislative Building around noon with protesters to “observe, participate, and report,” the suit says, providing a live on-the-air interview to the Norman Goldman radio show.

Around 6:00 that evening, police announced that anyone who refused to leave the Legislative Building would be arrested.

Canfield sat down near the holiday tree in the Capitol rotunda and watched police arrest protesters for about an hour, when an officer approached him and asked if he was going to leave the building.

When Canfield refused, four officers picked him up and carried him away. Canfield’s suit notes that reporters from a TV station and other journalists stayed in the building as police were making arrests.

In the lawsuit, Canfield complains there is no appeal process for the ban, which will prevent him from attending other protests at the capitol.

A federal judge is scheduled to hear Canfield’s request for a temporary restraining order today.

According to Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins, during the first two days of the Occupy Olympia protests, police issued trespass warnings to about three dozen protesters, banning them from the Capitol for 30 days. Police later arrested five people for violating the trespass warnings, extending their capitol campus bans to a year.

Canfield’s attorneys have requested the court temporarily halt the capitol bans, and a hearing is scheduled for some time today. WSP’s Calkins said he had not seen the lawsuit or heard anything about a stay on the trespass warnings which, he says, “should still be in effect.”

We have a call out to KBCS to find out if Canfield was on an official assignment for the station.