A Vice News reporter who showed up at a Donald Trump campaign event in Houston today is presently behind bars.
While his fellow employees are pleading his innocence, and others are trying to spin the incident as “Trump campaign has reporter arrested in sign of growing fascism,” it seems that Alex Thompson is not quite the free-speech martyr some are trying to make him out to be.
According to Vice News’ own reporting on the incident, Thompson, who was not credentialed for the event, refused an order by hotel officials to leave the premises:
A man who identified himself as a hotel manager then asked Thompson to leave and warned that he would be arrested if he did not. Roughly two minutes later, without further warning and while Thompson was waiting for a member of Trump’s staff to clarify his access to the event, he was arrested by Houston Police, handcuffed, and escorted outside. Thompson spoke with his editors while handcuffed and said that he was never given any opportunity to explain himself to police.
So Thompson was told by Omni Hotels staff to leave the premises. But he refused to comply because, “Don’t you know who I am!”
Here’s the Vice News video of Thompson under arrest:
But you wouldn’t gather that Thompson was arrested for a clear case of criminal trespass if you followed the tweets of his fellow employees about the incident, trying to gin this up as some grave violation of free speech:
— Ryan McCarthy (@mccarthyryanj) September 17, 2016
— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) September 17, 2016
And it turns out, according to a Trump campaign statement (published by a Vice News reporter no less), media credentialing was limited today to the press pool, which didn’t include Thompson, and didn’t play any role in his arrest.
— E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcS) September 17, 2016
Not quite the “Trump fascism descends upon the land” narrative that some in the media are trying to spin this into.
So perhaps the moral of the story is that criminal trespass laws apply even to the media. If you’re ordered to leave the property by a representative of the property owner, there is no “First Amendment” exception that will prevent you from being arrested if you don’t comply after you’re asked to leave.
And a final pro tip is that if you’re a “reporter” covering a presidential campaign event, perhaps don’t dress like you’re attending a Phish concert.