Two reporters taken into custody after covering Birmingham protest


Two reporters were detained in Birmingham after a protest Wednesday night.


Two reporters were taken into custody while working Wednesday night in Birmingham.

Jonece Starr Dunigan and Howard Koplowitz were taken into custody at about 7:35 p.m. outside of Birmingham City Hall. Each were released shortly after arriving at the city jail and no charges were filed.

Koplowitz, who was using his cell phone to video officers walking out of City Hall, was first approached by two male officers. “You are under arrest,” one said.

Koplowitz, who has been with the company just over five years, told police he was with the press. “Sir, I am with the media,” he can be heard saying on video. One officer replied, “You’re under arrest man. Put your hands behind your back.”

While Alabama Media Group has provided letters with proof of employment allowing reporters to be in the county past the 7 p.m. curfew, protocol required by the city of Birmingham, Koplowitz said officers would not allow him to pull the letter from the plastic casing around the lanyard hanging from his neck. His press badge was also visible in the lanyard, he said.

Dunigan was taken into custody seconds after officers approached Koplowitz. She can be heard screaming, “Why am I being arrested,” at least three times in the video. She did not mention her employment or letter showing permission to be out past curfew. She has been with the company almost four years.

The two were restrained using zip ties. Koplowitz and Dunigan were placed in a transport van and taken to the city jail along with several other protestors who had been arrested. According to Koplowitz, the entire group was taken out of the van and handcuffed to a bench when they arrived at the city jail.

Dunigan said photographs were taken. Officers told them the photos were not mugshots.

After about 10 minutes of being handcuffed to the bench, Koplowitz said Birmingham police Public Information Officer Sgt. Rod Mauldin appeared and had the reporters uncuffed.