A reporter for The Economist was temporarily handcuffed outside a room where Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was giving a victory speech.
Natasha Loder had been assigned to cover the speech in Novi, Mich., but she and several other reporters had been corralled into a nearby room to watch the speech on television.
When Loder realized that the video feed she and the other reporters were watching was on a delay, she found her way to the room where the speech was being given and stood in the doorway to cover the event in real time.
The U.S. executive editor for the Daily Mail, Toby Harnden was one of the reporters present at the event and reportedly tweeted about the handcuffing as it was happening. Harnden said part of the problem was that many of the reporters had not received passes allowing them direct access to the room where the event was being held.
“Despite there being wide open spaces clearly visible in the press area, the event staff (not from the Romney campaign) on the door would not let any of us in,” Harnden said in a statement to the Huffington Post.
When a security guard saw Loder and the other reporters who had joined her standing in the open doorway, he threatened to close the door, Loder told The Politicker. Loder said she asked the guard to speak with someone from the Romney campaign, but was then quickly approached by police threatening to arrest her for trespassing.
Arresting a reporter for covering an assigned event would like arresting J.J. Abrams for using lens flare or like arresting Tony Horton for giving his viewers fantastically sculpted bodies.
Keeping these professionals from their work was unreasonable and could have been resolved if Secret Service or Romney’s staff would have taken a moment to correct a mistake they made. When she refused to leave, sitting on the floor of the doorway in protest, the officer placed her in handcuffs. Loder was released by the police soon after, free to file her stories.
Romney made no apology or acknowledgment of his part in the conflict, his only comment was that the altercation was “strictly a police matter,” but he fails to realize the whole ordeal could have been avoided if his staff had provided adequate access to the live event, instead of banishing a portion of the reporters to another room.
the more important issue is that the event staff was infringing on the rights of Loder and her fellow reporters.
“I just said, ‘Look, I’m sorry, I just wanted to do my job,’” Loder told the New York Observer.
It appears the fault lies with those who failed to distribute press passes.
For an event like this, reporters should not be forced to watch the speech on a television while they are in the same building as the event itself.
If the room where Romney was speaking was full or if no members of the press were being allowed access at all, perhaps this would have been acceptable, but to interfere with the livelihood of just a few reporters seems unjust and an affront to First Amendment rights.