Detroit News reporter handcuffed, other journalists report conflicts with police

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Detroit News reporter was briefly handcuffed Sunday during the third night of tense protests in the city, while other journalists reported being shoved as police sought to disperse rowdy crowds.

Investigative reporter Christine MacDonald was filming an arrest of a person at 9:33 p.m. at Grand Circus Park near Woodward from a distance when she was handcuffed from behind by an officer who asked: "who are you with?"

MacDonald is heard on her cellphone recording identifying herself and telling the officer she had credentials. He then instructed MacDonald to come back to his scout car. The detainment was brief.

"I was filming from afar. I was not interfering at all, and he arrested me," MacDonald can be heard telling others after she was released. "He asked me if I was going to be leaving after this, I said ‘no, I’m going to be doing my job and covering this event.’"

Detroit News reporter Christine MacDonald was handcuffed in Detroit on Sunday while reporting on police arrests of demonstrators.

MacDonald said she went on to explain to the officer that the police department had made clear earlier in the evening that journalists were not subject to the city’s newly imposed 8 p.m. curfew.

The reporter’s accounts came late into the third straight evening of protests in the city as part of a national movement against police brutality in the wake of the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Hundreds amassed Sunday outside Detroit’s Public Safety Headquarters building, and many refused to budge as police lined up and prepared tactical gear, urging the crowd to disband for the evening. The scene grew tense with police ultimately deploying tear gas.

Detroit News Editor and Publisher Gary Miles said Sunday "while we decry the handcuffing of reporters, we recognize the difficulty of differentiating between press and protesters."

"We’re glad that cooler heads prevailed, that other media spoke up and that the officer listened to Christine’s explanation and her insistence that, when released, she would continue doing her job of covering the night’s events," Miles said. 

Separately, Detroit Free Press reporter Mark Kurlyandchik tweeted around 9:30 p.m. that he "got charged by a DPD officer" as he was attempting to put on goggles to protect against tear gas that was being shot. 

"Knocked my hat off my head and phone out of my hands," he wrote. "Another officer tried to make us clear the area even though we were standing in the press zone."

Kurlyandchik, a dining reporter for the Free Press, wrote he was with three other reporters at the time and another officer "tried to force us away," not believing they were members of the press, despite showing identification badges. Meanwhile, a man with a television camera was not hassled, he added. 

"I’m fine, but it shouldn’t take a big news camera to exercise our constitutional duty," he wrote. 

Darcie Moran, a breaking news reporter also with the Free Press, posted on Twitter about the encounter, noting the journalists were in the designated media area.

"Police started shoving us and said they didn’t care we were media," she wrote. "One reporter went down hard. He is fine."

Detroit Police Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood told The News late Sunday that she wasn’t aware of MacDonald’s brief detainment or the incidents reported on social media by other journalists. But she encouraged them to contact the department and file a complaint.

"We take every allegation seriously," she said. "If they feel there was some type of misconduct against them, we definitely want them to report it to us so we can investigate further."

Kirkwood later added: "The vast majority of the men and women in the department do get it right."

MLive, meanwhile, reported that as chaos ensued Saturday evening following hours of peaceful protesting, staff photographer Nicole Hester was among three journalists hit by pellets fired by Detroit police. 

Hester was hit by as many as a dozen pellets in her face and body, leaving welts and narrowly missing her eye, MLive reported. 

The photographer said the photojournalists had been stopped on the way back to their parked car near Kennedy Square around midnight. 

"We were just trying to leave the scene," Hester told MLive. "We weren’t charging at them."

Another Free Press reporter, JC Reindl, tweeted late Saturday that officers targeted him with pepper spray even as he held up his media badge.