Reporter Arrested at Democratic Convention: His Crime? Reporting on How Money Fuels Politics
Sam Diener is Co-Editor Peacework Magazine.
Asa Eslocker is an investigative journalist who has worked for ABC News for five years and in its investigative unit for the past two years. Asa Eslocker describes his job as investigating the "confluence of money and politics and how money buys power."
Eslocker investigated this institutionalized corruption at both the Democratic and Republican conventions this fall. One of his methods was to go to the Parties' parties. Eslocker told Peacework, "We went to the parties to see how lobbyists and fundraisers buy access to politicians."
One of the parties Eslocker sought to cover was held on August 27, 2008 at the Brown Palace hotel, a four-star hotel in downtown Denver. Eslocker said, "It was a Senatorial brunch hosted by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and we were trying to find out who the corporate sponsors were."
In a scene captured on video, while Eslocker stood on the public sidewalk outside the hotel trying to interview the donors and beneficiaries entering for the shindig, police officers confronted him, shoved him off the sidewalk into the street, then threatened to arrest him for blocking traffic. Eslocker crossed the street. Two hours later, while Eslocker was on the public sidewalk, police grabbed him, arrested him, and charged him with trespassing, failure to follow a lawful order, and interference with a police officer. If convicted of all three charges, Eslocker faces a maximum of 3 years in jail and a $2997 fine.
Eslocker told Peacework, "Freedom
of the press and our first amendment rights are essential to a
strong and healthy democracy. I'm trying to do important
stories for the public good. First amendment rights are essential
for our ability to accomplish this mission." The arrest
did have a chilling effect. Because of his arrest, Eslocker was
unable to report on the corporate largesse being lavished on Democratic
Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the
American Civil Liberties Union, told ABC, "Arresting a
reporter for simply doing his job is both unconstitutional and
un-American. That free speech is curtailed during the Democratic
National Convention underscores the need for continued protection
of civil liberties, regardless of the party in power."