Updated as of 1/10/2023 at 12:12 p.m. ET
A video went viral over the weekend of Wall Street Journal reporter Dion Rabouin being detained at a Chase Bank in Phoenix. However, this incident didn’t catch Rabouin by surprise. It was only the latest out of a long string of police encounters he’s had over his life, according to a Twitter thread he wrote.
“This time, the bank that called the police on me has called to apologize, and the mayor of the city where it happened has emailed me personally to apologize and assure me that a full investigation is happening. But I’ve been dealing with this my entire life,” he tweeted.
He then went on to document the first time he encountered the police – when he was just four years old. An officer pulled over his father for driving with him in his lap. Rabouin’s father told the officer he didn’t know he couldn’t do that to which the officer asked, “Are you stupid or something?”
“My dad had this look of sadness, fury and helplessness on his face that I had never seen before,” wrote Rabouin.
Later when he was 16, Rabouin said he and his friend were searched and interrogated while parked in a high school lot waiting for his Ford to cool down from overheating. “The idea that two high school students would be at their own high school at 9:30 p.m. just didn’t seem plausible. We had our IDs with us, but that didn’t seem to change anything,” he wrote.
Read the other encounters he documented via Twitter:
Then, what happened in Phoenix?
Rabouin was visiting family in Phoenix when he decided to do a little work, interviewing passersby outside a Chase bank for a story about savings accounts, per CNN’s report. Rabouin was approached by a bank representative at some point and he identified himself as a journalist. But he was never asked to leave. The police report, however, states the complete opposite: that he was asked to identify himself and leave but refused…
Per a video caught by a bystander, Rabouin identified himself to the officers as a reporter and said he’d be willing to cease his interviewing but the officers disregarded his statements and proceeded to arrest him.
“He asked me what I was doing. I identified myself. I said, ‘I’m Dion Rabouin. I’m a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. I’m working on a story. I told the people in the branch what was going on.’ And he said, ‘Well you can’t do that,’” Rabouin told ABC15 News.
The offense was written up as a misdemeanor third-degree criminal trespass.
In a letter addressed to Phoenix Police Chief Michael Sullivan, WSJ Editor-in-Chief Matt Murray challenged the grounds for the arrest, defending Rabouin’s freedom of the press rights.
Read Murray’s letter from ABC15 News:
I am writing to express my deep concern over the conduct of members of the Phoenix Police Department last month with Dion Rabouin, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who was engaging in his First Amendment-protected right to gather news.
Naturally, I am relieved that Mr. Rabouin’s interaction with Phoenix police officers ended peacefully. But I am appalled and concerned that officers at your department would attempt to interfere with Mr. Rabouin’s constitutional right to engage in journalism and purport to limit anyone’s presence in a public location. Such conduct is offensive to civil liberties, and also a pretty good news story.
The US Press Freedom Tracker reported that up to 200 journalists have been arrested since 2020. Reporters were already facing pressure during the Trump “Fake News” era as the public became extra skeptical of journalism. At the same time, tensions rose between reporters following stories about police brutality and officers.
During the 2020 protests, journalists were caught in the sweep of arrests by SWAT officers going after demonstrators. A CNN correspondent, Omar Jimenez, was arrested on live television while reporting on the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis. The situation was like that of Rabouin’s. Jimenez identified himself, offered to comply with reporting elsewhere and he and his team were handcuffed.
Rabouin was let go in the end, but the question remains if he was supposed to be detained in the first place.