Brit Reporter Protests Detroit Picket Treatment p.7

By: MARK FITZGERAL A BRITISH JOURNALIST has formally complained to Detroit's mayor and the American ambassador in London about police conduct while he was covering a picket line outside the Detroit Free Press.
Rob Sewell says in a letter to Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer that he was "harassed," intimidated and threatened unjustifiably with arrest while attempting to photograph a Detroit police officer "man-handling" a union picket during a protest outside the newspaper Nov. 14.
"Is this the standard treatment by the police in Detroit to harass journalists covering industrial disputes?
"The whole thing was utterly distasteful and objectionable," Sewell wrote.
Sewell, a freelance reporter and photographer, was in Detroit to cover the 17-month-old Detroit newspapers strike for the Journalist, a publication of the National Union of Journalists.
In a telephone interview from England, Sewell said the police conduct, plus the heavy private security hired by the Free Press, the Detroit News and their joint operating agency, Detroit Newspapers, seemed to him excessive in comparison to similar newspaper union strikes in Britain.
"It just seemed to be excessively overhanded and as if they were trying to smother, you know, the publicity. A bit of conspiracy of silence, you know," Sewell said.
"There is quite a lot of interest in Britain, especially among newspaper unions, about the strike," Sewell added. "But, in contrast, I don't seem to see the same kind of interest in America about the strike. I don't know if that's media exhaustion, or what."
A spokesman for Detroit Mayor Archer said he was not aware of any response to Sewell's complaint.
"The mayor has insisted police officers remain courteous and respectful [with pickets]," said Anthony Neely, a former striking Free Press business reporter.
"We have taken no sides in this newspaper strike, other than to say we want to see it over. The mayor has tried to help in that effort by bringing both sides together," he said.
"In general, our position has been that we maintain law and order without trampling on anyone's rights."
"We have not
commented except to say the complaint is without merit and Mr. and Mrs. Scripps intend to defend it vigorously. They are very saddened by it," said the attorney for Edward W. and Betty Knight Scripps,
Marshall Moriarity.


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