Memphis-based journalist Manuel Duran claims he was arrested and transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody for publishing embarrassing stories about the local police department.
Duran told the Daily Beast in a report published on Monday that he believes “without a doubt” that he was arrested earlier this year as retaliation for his coverage of local police.
The 42-year-old journalist said he was covering a protest in Memphis in April when police arrested him for disorderly conduct and obstructing a passageway.
Duran was reportedly transferred to ICE custody after the police charges against him were dropped, the county sheriff’s spokesperson, Earle Farrell, told the publication.
The Daily Beast also noted the police department said Duran refused to get out of the road, causing “a hazard,” and mentioned the journalist was not carrying U.S. identification at the time of the arrest.
The local police department denied Duran’s allegations at a press conference in April.
“The question that we targeted Mr. Duran is just false,” Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said.
ICE spokesman Bryan Cox also denied the allegations to the news publication.
“The allegation that ICE engages in retaliation towards individuals who protest is categorically false. Mr. Duran was arrested [by ICE] because he is in violation of federal immigration law,” Cox said.
Jeremy Jong, a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) attorney representing Duran, said the journalist is being targeted by law enforcement officials for stories he published on the online publication Memphis Noticias, which he founded, that were “embarrassing” for the police department.
In a court petition filed by SPLC, Duran was said to have published stories on local police shootings, police misconduct incidents, the local police department’s relationship with ICE and other stories that could have cast a negative light on local law enforcement.
“ICE is targeting people who speak against them,” Jong told the outlet, “We see cases from all over the country where activists who speak out against ICE are being arrested."
The news arrives on the heels of an NPR report earlier this year stating that at least 20 immigrant activists were arrested on immigration charges.