Journalist arrested and pepper-sprayed during BLM protests pleaded: 'This is my job'

Andrea Sahouri, a reporter for the Des Moines Register, testified on Tuesday about the incident in which a police officer pepper-sprayed and arrested her while she was covering a racial justice protest last year.

As The Associated Press reports, Sahouri told jurors that she was running away from a scene where tear gas had been shot to disperse protesters when she saw an officer charging her, causing her to put her hands up.

“I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” Sahouri said, according to the AP. “I said, ‘I’m press, I’m press, I’m press.’ He grabbed me, pepper-sprayed me and as he was doing so said, ‘That’s not what I asked.’”


Spenser Robnett, Sahouri's boyfriend at the time of her arrest, also testified on Tuesday, the AP reports. He told the court that after he saw Sahouri being pepper-sprayed, he stepped forward to inform the officer, Luke Wilson, that she was a reporter, only to be pepper-sprayed himself.

Bodycam footage was also shown during the trial in which Sahouri could be seen temporarily blinded and in pain while repeatedly telling the officers she was a reporter.

“This is my job,” Sahouri tells one of the officers. “I’m just doing my job. I’m a journalist.”

Both Sahouri and Robnett face misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse and interference with official acts, possibly resulting in fines and jail time. They also both testified that they did not hear the dispersal order and decided to continue reporting on what she described as a historic moment.

“It’s important for journalists to be on the scene and document what’s happening,” she said, according to the AP.

According to the AP, Judge Lawrence McLellan withheld from ruling on the defense's motion for an acquittal, though he could issue a decision on Wednesday.


During his testimony on Monday, Wilson said he decided to arrest Sahouri after she did not leave the scene.

"Once I determined she wasn’t leaving, I had to take action,” Wilson said. He stated during cross examination that he decided to charge her with interference as well after she pulled her left arm away while he was arresting her, a detail he acknowledged that he had not included in his report.

Wilson failed to turn on his body camera, mistakenly believing that it was already on. The AP notes that officers who fail to capture significant incidents are required to tell supervisors, who may be able to recover the footage. Wilson said he did not do this.