A reporter for the group N.C. Policy Watch was arrested Thursday when police closed the House chamber’s public gallery during a debate.
Joe Killian was covering the session for Policy Watch, which is part of the liberal advocacy group N.C. Justice Center. Killian previously wrote for The Greensboro News & Record.
Police had demanded that all journalists, lobbyists and other members of the public leave the gallery after NAACP protesters interrupted the House session by chanting. Police arrested a number of people who refused to leave and charged them with trespassing.
Journalists who are affiliated with advocacy groups do not have press credentials that allow them on the House and Senate floors, so they must sit in the public gallery to cover legislative sessions. Both chambers’ galleries were closed Thursday, meaning members of the public who wanted to watch the proceedings in person could not do so.
The people arrested were taken to the Legislative Building’s basement for processing. Police told two reporters to leave a public hallway where they’d been watching the arrival of those arrested.
The N.C. Justice Center and Policy Watch issued a statement criticizing Killian’s arrest. “He was not protesting,” according to the statement, attributed to Rob Schofield and Rick Glazier. “He was simply covering the incident and was arrested when he refused to stop covering the news. We believe in the end the judicial process will resolve this issue and find our reporter was simply exercising his right to cover the news as it was unfolding in front of him.”