Charges dropped, attorney general apologizes for reporter’s arrest in Asbury Park
The state attorney general has issued an apology and criminal charges were dropped against an Asbury Park Press reporter who was arrested after Monday night after a protest march.
Gustavo Martínez Contreras was live-streaming the aftermath of a rally Monday night via Twitter when he was taken into custody. Contreras on his Twitter account said that after his arrest, he was issued a summons for failing to obey an order to disperse and was released from the custody of Belmar police in the early hours of Tuesday.
The proclamation for the curfew issued by the city Monday specifically exempts "credentialed members of the media."
An officer is heard in the video telling Martínez Contreras "get your f---ing hands behind your back." The video is shot from Martínez Contreras' perspective and it's not immediately clear what he was doing right before that moment.
"I know that officers face enormous challenges while maintaining order during a chaotic situation. But I've discussed this matter with local authorities and they will be dismissing the charge today," Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced on his Twitter account.
Grewal also said he would find out why the arrest was made and to make sure it doesn't happen again.
"Because in America, we don't lock up reporters for doing their job," Grewal said.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office announced via Twitter on Tuesday morning the charges were dropped "at the direction of Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni."
Hollis R. Towns — a regional vice president for the newspaper's owner, Gannet, said on his Twitter account that it was "great news but questions remain as to why it happened in the first place. Training is key!"
"We do not condone violence. We do not condone looting," the local Gannett newspapers said in an editorial that appeared on their website Tuesday morning. "We also do not condone aggressive police tactics that cross the line and become brutality."
"We will remain vigilant. We will not be intimidated. We will report the news, as the First Amendment guarantees."
The march was peaceful on Monday afternoon with officers taking a knee with marchers. Violence erupted when people refused to leave after the city’s temporary 8 p.m. curfew took effect, according to NJ.com coverage of the protest. Police in riot gear had rocks thrown at them, according to the Asbury Park Press' report.
Asbury Park police spokesman Michael Casey told the Asbury Park Press there were 12 arrests, including two juveniles.Casey told NJ.com that one officer was taken from the scene with a “bloody head wound."
Casey did not respond to a message seeking to confirm the number of arrests and the charges or details about the injuries to the officer.