Dion Rabouin: WSJ demands explanation after Arizona cops arrest Black journo while reporting
PHOENIX, ARIZONA: A Black reporter was handcuffed and detained while covering a bank, prompting The Wall Street Journal to demand that the Phoenix Police Department conduct an internal investigation and guarantee the protection of its journalists' constitutional rights. After a widely publicized incident in November involving financial writer Dion Rabouin, who was seen being placed in the back of a police car in that month, the newspaper's editor-in-chief pressured Phoenix police chief Michael Sullivan in a letter.
In a letter dated 7 December, editor Matt Murray wrote, "Naturally, I am relieved that Mr. Rabouin’s interaction with Phoenix police officers ended peacefully. But I am appalled and concerned that officers at your department would attempt to interfere with Mr. Rabouin’s constitutional right to engage in journalism and purport to limit anyone's presence in a public location," which was obtained by ABC News. He went on, "Such conduct is offensive to civil liberties, and also a pretty good news story."
Rabouin went to Arizona on November 23 to spend Thanksgiving with his family, he told ABC affiliate KNXV-TV. Rabouin, a market reporter for the Wall Street Journal, claimed he made the decision to interview people for a piece regarding savings accounts while there. According to a statement from the Phoenix Authorities Department, bank employees called the police after receiving reports from clients who claimed a guy was approaching them as they entered the bank and posing inquiries. Rabouin informed the channel that he offered to leave after explaining to police that he was a reporter working on a news piece.
A bystander's video footage revealed shows an officer handcuffing Rabouin and attempting to throw him in the back of the officer's car. Other officers arrive eight minutes into the video. Rabouin is released a few moments later. According to arresting officer Caleb Zimmerman's incident report, bank personnel asked Rabouin to leave the property, and he refused. However, Rabouin, who was conducting man-on-the-street interviews outside a Chase Bank branch, claimed that no one from the bank ever asked him to leave, as reported by The Independent.
“I saw a police car pull up. And the officer came out, walked into the branch, after about five minutes came out, and talked to me,” he told local news outlet ABC15. “He asked me what I was doing. I identified myself. I said, ‘I’m Dion Rabouin. I’m a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. I’m working on a story. I told the people in the branch what was going on.’ And he said, ‘Well you can’t do that.’”
Rabouin stated that the officer refused to look at his press credentials or allow him to leave the site. “’If this isn’t public property and I don’t have a legal right to be here, if you’re telling me that’s not what this is, fine, I’ll move.’ And he … shifted his body to keep me from moving or going anywhere,” Rabouin told ABC15. “And after we talked a little more, he said, ‘I’m done with this.’ And he started grabbing me.”
Rabouin can be heard telling the officer, "I told you I would voluntarily leave" as he is being detained. "[The officer] literally, kind of, shifted his body to keep me from moving or going anywhere," Rabouin told KNXV-TV. "And after we talked a little more he said, 'I’m done with this.' And he started grabbing me. Grabbing at my arms. And I was kind of flustered and drew back. And he was like, 'This could get bad for you if you don’t comply and don’t do what I say.' So he grabs my arms and really wrenches them behind my back and proceeds to put me in handcuffs."
Rabouin stated that he filed an internal complaint with the agency, which informed him that no evidence of misconduct existed. According to a Wall Street Journal representative, the publication is "deeply concerned" about the occurrence. “We have asked the Phoenix Police Department to pursue a thorough investigation into the incident and explain why their officers needlessly escalated the situation and took these aggressive steps. We await their response,” according to the statement. “No journalist should ever be detained simply for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Following the incident, Rabouin posted on Twitter that he was grateful to everyone who had shown their support.
I don't have much more to say about the situation with Phoenix PD. Just about all of the details can be found in Dave's report here. Thanks to everyone who has reached out to offer support. We're hoping to hear back from the chief or someone at the department soon. https://t.co/KEce6YPLW4— Dion Rabouin 🇺🇸 (@DionRabouin) January 5, 2023
The US Department of Justice has already launched a civil rights investigation into the Phoenix Police Department, alleging among other things that the agency engaged in discriminatory policing, retaliated against protesters, and interacted with people with disabilities in an unconstitutional manner.