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Journalist, Police Clash At L.A. City Hall As Tension Mounts Between Press Corps, City Council (Updated)

Officer Johson reaches for a journalist's camera during a public meeting, in a public space.
Officer Johson reaches for a journalist's camera during a public meeting, in a public space.
Eric Leonard

Strained relations between the City Hall press corps and Los Angeles city officials came to a head Friday when a journalist was restrained by officers after taking pictures of people testifying before the City Council.

KFI AM 640 reporters Eric Leonard tells the Weekly he was taking photos when officers restrained him, ostensibly under a city policy that no photography be taken of citizens who come before the council. Leonard named a lawman who grabbed his camera as "Officer Johnson." Leonard still posted photos successfully to his Flickr page, however. (Updated after the jump).

(Update): The run in happened as protesters from the Los Angeles Community Action Network allegedly became unruly during a hearing about the city's rent control ordinance. Police cleared most people from council chambers so the council could get on with its meeting. Some in the crowd were upset by the council's decision to put off a possible rent-hike moratorium for rent-controlled residences.

The clash came as new media restrictions were imposed for reporters who cover the council, a body that has been bruised by recent coverage of its struggle to balance the budget.

A group of reporters was scheduled to meet with a few council leaders next week to decry the rules, which include movement restrictions and less contact -- if any -- with council members without requests having to be made through their press representatives.

California's Brown Act, a.k.a. the "open-meeting law," specifies that public bodies much announce their meetings with advance notice for public attendance, and declares that they must not be secret. As such reporters feel they have the right to cover such meetings using the tools of their trade: notepads, audio recorders and cameras.


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