COLUMBUS, Ga. – A reporter for a Russian TV news network says she and her cameraman were wrongfully arrested and jailed by Columbus police as the journalists were covering the arrests of demonstrators outside Fort Benning in western Georgia.
Reporter Kaelyn Forde and cameraman Jon Conway, Washington-based journalists for Russia Today, were arrested Saturday — along with at least 20 others — on charges that they violated state and local laws governing public protests.
Forde called their arrests "very unacceptable" in an interview broadcast Monday by Russia Today, an English-language news network funded by the Russian government. Both journalists are U.S. citizens.
"There was a very distinct impression that the police were going after people who were filming and documenting what happened there," Forde said. "Of course, we weren't protesting. We were covering it."
Columbus police officials did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Monday.
The arrests came during the annual protest of the U.S. military training school formerly known as the School of the Americas, which trains Latin American military officers. Opponents say its graduates have used their training to commit human rights abuses.
Arrests are common during the yearly demonstrations, which draw hundreds of protesters outside Fort Benning's main gate. Police began arresting demonstrators Saturday when the marchers went outside the area where they had a permit to protest.
Russia Today aired video of Forde being handcuffed as an officer held the reporter's hands behind her back. It's not clear what prompted her arrest.
"I'm sorry. I'm a member of the press," Forde says on the video as she's being handcuffed. "I was asked to move. I moved over here and now they're arresting me. And I don't understand why."
The network said in a news release that Forde and Conway were arrested despite having "complied with all the requirements of the police, including the demand not to approach the fort's entrance."
The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported police also threatened to arrest one of its reporters covering the demonstration.
Muscogee County jail records show Forde and Conway were jailed for 29 hours before they were released Sunday on $1,300 bond each.
They were charged with unlawful assembly, demonstrating without a permit and failing to obey a police order to disperse.