Protesters object to charges against local journalist
on December 8, 2009
Demonstrators rallied for press freedom and decried what they characterized as police brutality in downtown Oakland on Monday, as they protested felony arson charges filed against a Bay Area journalist.
The journalist, who works under the name JR Valrey, faces accusations that he burned property during a January 2009 protest against the police shooting of Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART station. The small group of protestors, which numbered about a dozen as downtown workers milled past the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse at 9 a.m., said Valrey was singled out by police because of his work on alleged instances of police misconduct.
“I don’t think it’s an issue of press freedom in the abstract,” said protestor Richard Tan, 30, of Oakland. “There are certain topics that are off-limits, such as police brutality.”
Valrey, who declined to comment on his case, has worked as a writer, radio host, videographer and photographer, as well as holding the title of minister of information with the Prisoners of Conscience Committee, a Bay Area political group. Valrey is an advocacy journalist who is open about his views, and many local activists have suspicions that he has become a target of police harassment as a result, said Mary Ratcliff, editor of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, which sometimes publishes his work.
“Wherever he encounters a really egregious case he tries to really delve into it,” Ratcliff said by phone.
Officer Jeffrey Thomason, public information officer for the Oakland Police Department, said he did not have information on Valrey’s case. Thomason did not respond to a subsequent request for comment on the protestors’ remarks.
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