Pima sheriff's deputies arrest reporter covering protest against Raytheon

A news reporter was arrested Thursday in Tucson by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department while covering a pro-Palestinian protest against military contractor Raytheon. Alisa Reznick of KJZZ was handcuffed and taken away by deputies, despite identifying herself as a journalist.

Reznick was released several hours later, after being taken — along with 25 others arrested — to PCSD’s San Xavier District Office and cited for criminal trespassing.

According to law enforcement and eyewitness accounts, and video and photos taken by protestors at the scene, Reznick was arrested as deputies told protestors to leave property outside a Raytheon building at the University of Arizona Tech Park on the Southeast Side.

What the Devil won’t tell you: Reporter arrested by Pima County sheriff’s deputies was right where she was supposed to be

Reznick was wearing her press pass and carrying reporting gear and a camera as deputies took her into custody around 7:30 a.m. Her arrest came despite being clearly identified as a working reporter, her move to leave the property as requested, and PCSD policies that lay out allowances for journalists undertaking their duties.

Sheriff Chris Nanos told the Sentinel that he was not aware of his department’s written policies regarding “reasonable access” for reporters at crime scenes.

In one video, which was also posted on YouTube, Reznick can be heard explaining to a deputy that she is a reporter and that she was heading to her car as they had instructed.

“I’m a reporter,” she told a PCSD deputy who was grasping her arm.

“You’re under arrest,” he told her.

“I’m going to my car, which is right there,” she said.

“You’ve had plenty of time to go to your car.”

“I’m not even involved in this,” she explained.

Holding the reporter’s camera, the deputy asked the person taking the video — which was posted on Twitter, the social media platform that now has an X for a logo, by the leftist activist journalism group Unicorn Riot —”Can you grab this? I don’t want to break it.”

As the deputy snapped Reznick into handcuffs, another approached. As she explained that she had been heading to her car, he said, “We told you to leave, and you remained for several more minutes.”

Unicorn Riot posted online that the group of about 60 protestors had blocked the roadway into the Raytheon site near South Rita Road and Interstate 10 for about an hour Thursday morning.

The person who took the video that was posted by the nonprofit group, which often focuses on protests and demonstrations, was not among those who were arrested, despite being in the same place at the same time as the working reporter who was handcuffed and led away, sources told the Sentinel.

A spokesperson for the group Tucson Coalition for Palestine said they arrived around 7 a.m. to block the entrances to the UA Tech Park as part of a protest against Raytheon, IBM and Citigroup for their role in Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Raytheon Missile Systems is a defense contracting giant that has multiple sites in Tucson.

The University of Arizona and Raytheon are two of Tucson’s biggest employers, they said.

“If our leaders won’t take action to stop the siege, for today we’ll do just that,” said the activist, who refused to be identified by anything more than Aileen.

Another one of the demonstrators, Julius Schlossburg, an independent professional photographer, was there to document the protest as well as take part. He was not arrested.

Reznick declined to speak on the record with the Sentinel, as she had not yet spoken with an attorney about the incident.

“The arrest of a member of the press is deeply concerning,” the ACLU of Arizona said. “Arresting journalists while doing their job to keep the public informed is a blatant violation of their constitutional rights.”

“Multiple demonstrators entered private property, blocked the roadways, and prevented employees from entering and leaving the facility. Despite Raytheon and law enforcement requests to leave the private property, many refused, and 26 people were arrested for criminal trespass,” Deputy Keith Bee said in a news release.

“Deputies remained on scene to ensure that order was maintained, while the rest of the demonstrators exercised their First Amendment rights to peacefully have their voices heard on public property without any additional violations being observed,” he wrote.

PCSD initially told the Sentinel that “the names of the persons arrested are not being released,” but when questioned as to the justification for withholding that information, eventually sent the list of individuals taken into custody. They were each arrested on a charge of 3rd degree criminal trespass under ARS 13-1502A1 (Case number 231130038)

“The journalist arrested was requested to vacate the private property and refused to comply,” Deputy Adam Schoonover told the Sentinel.

Asked to detail PCSD’s policies regarding dealing with journalists, Schoonover emailed a screenshot with a portion of a page from the department’s General Orders, but left out a section detailing access for reporters during incidents.

The emailed portion said:

No arbitrary or unnecessary obstacles shall be imposed on news person(s) at any time by any member of the department.

a. No department member shall restrict members of the press or public
from photographing or filming events, which occur in public places or
in public view; however, camera operators shall not be permitted to
physically interfere with official departmental activity.

When deputies are in a private dwelling or other area not generally
open to the public, permission for news media access must be obtained
from the citizen holding authority over the premises. If no such person
is available, permission for such access may be granted by the deputy
in charge.

Not included in that statement from PCSD was the next section, on the same page:

News persons shall be allowed reasonable access to scenes of crimes or incidents except where such access is prohibited by evidentiary need or by the presence of grave physical danger.

Sheriff Chris Nanos told the Sentinel that Reznick told deputies that she had permission to be on the property when she did not comply with requests to leave.

None of the video of the incident includes such a statement by the reporter. The Sentinel has requested PCSD’s bodycam footage of the incident.

Raytheon representatives asked PCSD to tell the demonstrators to leave the property, Nanos said. The area in which Reznick was arrested is a paved section of road on the Tech Park campus, much of which is so open to the public that it appears in Google Street View.

The UA Science and Technology Park property is owned by the Arizona Board of Regents. The government leases a building there to Raytheon.

The Tech Park is run by the nonprofit Campus Research Corporation. UA representatives said the lease between CRC — set up by ABOR in 1994 to operate “solely to assiste the Arizona Board of Regents” in the UA’s educational and research mission — and Raytheon is “confidential.” They declined to provide the lease between the state agency and CRC for the operation of the park.

Several of the protestors had left their cars on the street that wraps around the property. Reznick was parked in a lot for visitors to 9040 S. Rita Rd., the UA’s Center for Innovation also located at the Tech Park. Deputies said they could go to their cars and drive out but needed to leave.

“Some still refused to leave,” Nanos said. He said his deputies understood “this was high priority” and they “kept their cool.”

“They have a job to do; they asked people to leave four or five times,” he said. Reznick and others refused, said the sheriff. “She gave us very little choice to do something else.”

“We try to handle this as low-level as we can. We have to have respect for both sides of the protest,” said the sheriff, an elected Democrat.

Reznick was halted by a deputy as she walked in the direction of her car, and arrested as she repeatedly said she was leaving, the video showed. PCSD Lt. Brett Bernstein told the Sentinel that he didn’t have any explanation for why she was arrested, but the person connected with the activist group who filmed her arrest was not. The lieutenant said he would have to defer to the deputies at the scene regarding their decisions. The Sentinel will seek the full set of police reports about the incident from PCSD, which should include the deputies’ accounts of each arrest made.

When a Sentinel reporter laid out the department’s General Orders regarding the press, Nanos told a Sentinel reporter that “this is the first I heard anything like that.”

“We don’t ask you where you work,” Nanos said. “I don’t think any of my deputies ever go and say ‘where do you work?’ and and it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “If you’re a reporter or you’re an off-duty police officer,” he said, the deputies are going to ask people to leave. “You’ve got to respect the wishes of the property owner and they’ve asked you to leave the premises.”

“I don’t believe she gave us any other option,” he said, adding ultimately, Reznick and KJZZ could “take this matter to the courts.”

When asked if the department had a policy to avoid arresting reporters, Nanos said, “It’s really about being reasonable. I don’t care whether you’re a journalist or not, if I’m a law enforcement officer working in my official capacity, and you’re sitting there as a journalist, you know, everybody has some responsibilities here.”

“So I don’t think I need a policy to tell you treat the press this way or that way, rather we treat our citizenry, no matter where they work, with respect,” he said.

PCSD’s General Orders include three pages detailing regulations for how department staff must handle relationships with “legitimate reporters.”

Attempts to curtail reporter access

There have been attempts to put legal restrictions on the ability of journalists to report on police.

In June 2022, former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill into law making it illegal to video officers within eight feet of them at work.

Introduced by state Rep. John Kavanaugh months earlier, HB 2319 made it “unlawful for a person to knowingly make a video recording of law enforcement activity if the person making the video recording does not have the permission of a law enforcement officer and is within eight feet of where the law enforcement activity is occurring.”

People who violate the law could have faced a misdemeanor charge and up to 30 days in jail.

Even before the bill was signed by Ducey, a Republican like Kavanaugh, civil rights groups and reporting organizations, including the National Press Photographers Association said the measure was unconstitutional. After it was signed, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arizona Broadcasters Association, the Arizona Press Association and newspapers and TV stations from around the state filed a lawsuit. Weeks before it took effect, U.S. District Judge John Tuchi issued a preliminary injunction, writing the bill violated a “‘clearly established’ right to ‘record law enforcement officers engaged in the exercise of their official duties in public places’ under the First Amendment.”

After Tuchi’s decision, Kavanaugh struggled to find lawyers willing to defend the law, and state and local officials also refused to back the law, leaving Tuchi’s decision in place.