Troopers Pursue Criminal Charges Against Journalist Filming Palestine Protest

DPS alleges assault, journalism experts allege suppression

Bystander video shows DPS arresting Sanchez after taking him to the ground (screenshot via X / @Chris_Kuhlman00)

Eighty people face charges after pro-Palestinian protests last week and the week before. One of them wasn’t protesting. Department of Public Safety troopers arrested a journalist filming a protest on the University of Texas campus after his camera bumped a state trooper. He now faces two misdemeanor charges, but a coalition of journalism organizations calls the arrest an attempt to suppress the media and is urging state troopers to backtrack.

Carlos Sanchez, a cameraman working for Austin’s Fox 7 news station, was livestreaming the April 24 protest as Texas Department of Public Safety troopers marched on the crowd of demonstrators and began violently arresting people. Video from Sanchez’s camera shows a line of troopers advance on the crowd, with Sanchez stuck in the middle, still recording.

The video appears to show Sanchez getting bumped from behind and into troopers. Seconds later, troopers throw him to the ground (bystander footage shows how forcibly troopers carried out this maneuver) and arrest him. As troopers haul Sanchez away, video shows him telling a reporter “[protesters] were pushing me and [DPS] said I hit an officer, but I didn’t hit an officer.” Initially, Sanchez was charged with felony assault, but DPS withdrew that warrant.

But one week later, the state law enforcement agency issued a new warrant for Sanchez’s arrest, accusing him of misdemeanor assault and interference with public duties. The DPS warrant says Sanchez ignored commands to disperse from the crowd, “placing him within very close proximity to officers” in a way that made it “unsafe for officers ... to effectively do their jobs.” Travis County Attorney Delia Garza declined to comment on the specifics of the charges but said that her office is reviewing the case along with the 79 arrests of protesters stemming from a later demonstration.

Per the warrant, a DPS special agent found that body-worn camera footage shows Sanchez “advances towards” a trooper “from behind and lunges toward him at least two times, striking him with the camera between his lower neck and head area” – an area that is completely unprotected by the riot gear troopers wore to confront peaceful protesters, the warrant notes.

“[Protesters] were pushing me and [DPS] said I hit an officer, but I didn’t hit an officer.”   – Carlos Sanchez as he was arrested

Gerry Morris, the longtime Austin criminal defense attorney representing Sanchez, said the description of the alleged offense is one of the most absurd he’s seen in his decades-spanning career as an attorney. “Mr. Sanchez was performing an important news gathering function during a chaotic event when he inadvertently bumped into a police officer,” Morris said in a statement. “He did not commit a crime. We look forward to someone taking an unbiased look at the evidence and exonerating Mr. Sanchez.”

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has begun a campaign to urge DPS to drop the charges against Sanchez, issuing a letter signed by 40 journalism organizations May 1. SPJ President Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins told us May 2 that beyond the immediate ramifications on Sanchez’s life and career, she is concerned about the impact the arrest could have on journalists throughout Texas.

“It feels like DPS is trying to make an example of Mr. Sanchez,” Blaize-Hopkins said. “Like it is meant to cause a chilling effect for journalists covering this story in Austin and across Texas.” But Sanchez’s actions – keeping his camera trained on a news event even as the scene becomes chaotic and dangerous – don’t show criminal behavior, Blaize-Hopkins said, they show good journalism.

“Law enforcement should be able to tell the difference and journalists should be given the freedom to do their constitutionally protected job.”

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Palestine, Israel, UT-Austin, Department of Public Safety, Fox 7

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