What a Reporter’s Arrest at a BLM Riot Tells Us About the Media
There’s more to the story of the media’s “Palestinian” free speech martyr.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
May 31st was an ugly day in Des Moines, Iowa, as hateful mobs of Black Lives Matter extremists smashed and looted their way across Merle Hay Mall. A protest the day before had smashed up the Polk County Courthouse, shattering windows and spraying it with graffiti.
Near the mall, small business owners got out their guns and stood outside closed stores.
Iowa State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, a former Black Panther and chair of the American Muslim Alliance, a group once considered so extreme that Hillary Clinton had returned its donations, played a key role in the BLM protest. Samad had opposed a bill targeting antisemitism.
By the time the police moved to break up the May 31st rally, Des Moines had suffered three straight days of BLM rioting. Police stood down during much of the rioting the day before, claiming that they had to allow the looting and vandalism to prevent anyone from being hurt.
“We caution everyone who is calling this a riot. This is not that. This is a rebellion," Des Moines NAACP President Kameron Middlebrooks had declared. "A rebellion is an act of violence or open resistance to an established government or ruler."
A rebellion sounds a good deal like an insurrection, but the courthouse and mall insurrections were being treated very differently than the participants in the Capitol Riot, despite their attacks on police officers and on a government building. Some rebellions are more equal than others.
Or perhaps they have more “equity”.
By Sunday, most businesses had closed down and a curfew had been imposed. The protests or insurrections went on anyway, with looting and bottles being thrown at police officers. As the attack on Merle Hay Mall got underway, the police ordered the crowd to disperse and go home. Then they started to make arrests. Those arrested included a young radical activist couple, Andrea Sahouri, of the Des Moines Register, and her boyfriend Spenser Robnett.
Sahouri identifies as “Palestinian”, a fictional identity used by Arab Muslim settlers and colonists in Israel, while Robnett is white. Neither of them are black. Video shows that they were among the few who had been arrested in that area of the mall. Soon, Sahouri had become a martyr.
Just not in the usual way.
While the rioting went on, with fireworks and heavy objects being hurled at police, and Abdul-Samad urging the police to kneel, Sahouri’s arrest quickly became the focus. Amnesty International, which has announced that it no longer supports Alexei Navalny’s struggle for democracy in Russia, has demanded that all charges be dropped against Sahouri.
The Des Moines Register claimed that Sahouri was a “reporter” covering the riot while the authorities insisted on charging her. The media portrayed this as an attack on freedom of the press, but Sahouri’s radical history points to a much more complicated truth about the event.
SJP has a history of promoting violence, hatred, and terrorism.
Sahouri was aware of the ugly history of the SAFE affiliate of SJP, complaining, “We are told that SAFE is a ‘hate group.’”
She had participated in a rally featuring a banner of a terrorist, and retweeted a message falsely claiming that, "Israel trains US police to occupy black communities! BDS Now!" In a rant at Miss Muslim, titled, "The Hypocracy (sic) Of Liberalism", the descendant of Muslim settler colonists attacked America and Israel as examples of “settler colonialism”.
Robnett had posted what appeared to be a photo of Sahouri dressed in a scarf calling for the elimination of Israel, while raising a fist in front of a banner reading, “Palestine will be free”.
Sahouri’s boyfriend praised her, writing, “Keep on leading the Woke Kids and Free Palestine.”
Was Sahouri leading the “woke kids” at the BLM riot, or was she reporting on it?
While working for the Des Moines Register, Sahouri had repeatedly covered publicity stunts by Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad. Even after her arrest, the paper continued to use Sahouri to cover the protests and Samad, including glamorizing the arrest of a BLM organizer busted over the vandalism of a cop car. There’s a basic conflict in having an activist, especially one that has a history with a hate group, covering a cause she’s passionate about, especially after she’s been arrested.
The Des Moines Register has gone on insisting that Sahouri is a journalist who was wrongly arrested. But Robnett, her fellow activist and boyfriend, isn’t a journalist. He appears to work in marketing. Journalists don’t bring their boyfriends along to a rally unless they’re there to take part in the event. During the BLM riots, leftist members of the media frequently blurred the line between activism and journalism. But Sahouri may be one of the more egregious examples.
The Register, Amnesty International, and other left-wing organizations continue to attack the police, but have refused to ask basic questions about Sahouri’s extremist background. Or why she was arrested, along with her boyfriend, while another Register reporter wasn’t.
Sahouri’s own account claims that she was arrested when she and her boyfriend were running from the police, and he was hit in the leg with a tear gas canister. It’s not normal for a legitimate journalist to run together with her boyfriend from the police. But the Des Moines Register seems to have no interest in asking its own reporter about what she thought was doing there.
The Register’s reporter made no secret of her politics or her agenda, and the paper has chosen not to register her hateful past or her extremist politics. Nor has it investigated what role they played in her arrest. The paper sent a reporter strongly supportive of the protests to cover them. While there, she was accompanied by her activist boyfriend who went down while running from the police.
The Des Moines Register keeps claiming that Sahouri ought to be immune from arrest as long as she was there on assignment. It keeps wrongly arguing that the First Amendment protects her. The First Amendment gives the Register, Sahouri, or anyone the freedom to write what they like. It gives them the right to protest peacefully. It does not provide a special immunity for members of the press.
The Register and its political allies don’t want Sahouri’s case going to trial. But the actual trial may answer some of the questions that the paper doesn’t want answered. And it may raise further questions about the Register’s decision to hire a member of a hate group, to send her to cover protests that she supported, and then to back her up after she was arrested at one of them.
And the resulting case may shed some light on the involvement of the media in its own story.