Independent Journalist Arrested For Filming BLM Protest Settles Suit With D.C. Police The parties settled for an undisclosed sum, which journalist Kian Kelley-Chung says will help fund his film on the D.C. protest movement.
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NPR logo Independent Journalist Arrested For Filming BLM Protest Settles Suit With D.C. Police

Independent Journalist Arrested For Filming BLM Protest Settles Suit With D.C. Police

Kian Kelley-Chung in front of St. John's Episcopal Church in Black Lives Matter Plaza. Dee Dwyer/WAMU/DCist hide caption

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Dee Dwyer/WAMU/DCist

An independent journalist has settled a lawsuit against D.C. officials and the Metropolitan Police Department.

Documentary filmmaker Kian Kelley-Chung was arrested in August 2020 while covering a Black Lives Matter march in Adams Morgan. Police seized his recording equipment and cell phone and did not return them for more than two months. Kelley-Chung sued, seeking financial restitution, an apology, and a promise to enhance police training. This week, the parties settled the case for an undisclosed sum. The training and apology were not included.

"I think that it is the slightest semblance of accountability," Kelley-Chung says.

The money from the settlement, Kelley-Chung says, compensates for camera equipment he had to replace and income he lost as a result of the arrest. The settlement will also help finance the production of a feature on the D.C. protest movement.

D.C. police did not respond to a request for comment on the settlement. The department's Video Recording General Order recognizes the broad First Amendment rights of people making recordings of working police officers conducting official business in public, and the department's Media General Order requires officers to allow "maximum access to the scene, without disrupting Department operations" for journalists in protests and other news-gathering situations.

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Protesters in the D.C. racial justice movement have frequently been subject to arrest, but like Kelley-Chung, have been released without charges. Kelley-Chung was arrested alongside more than 40 people, but just one was later prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for D.C.

Kelley-Chung says he hopes his case will inspire citizens to continue documenting police misconduct towards Black and Brown people.

"The people within these communities need to do our part in trying to hold these officers accountable, whether that is take out your cell phones and record traffic stops, record instances in which you seeing police officers accost people on the street, or if you're at a protest and you see a large police presence," he says. "Keep doing that. Keep doing that."

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