An Iowa journalist who was pepper sprayed, zip tied, and arrested at a Black Lives Matter demonstration last year has been found not guilty on charges of failure to disperse and interfering with police, CNN reports. Following the verdict, Des Moines Register reporter Andrea May Sahouri tweeted: “Acquitted,” along with images of her being arrested during the May 31 demonstration. “I'm thankful to the jury for doing the right thing. Their decision upholds freedom of the press and justice in our democracy.” Police in Des Moines has said that Sahouri had remained at the protest despite orders to leave, and then tried to pull away when an officer pepper-sprayed and tried to arrest her, per the Register. Sahouri, 25, said that she identified herself as a journalist, according to the AP, which notes that she is the first working journalist to face a criminal trial since 2018.
Sahouri’s case has been condemned as an attack on the freedom of the press. “Law enforcement should never have arrested Andrea Sahouri in the first place simply for doing her job as a reporter, and the decision to move forward with her prosecution flies in the face of the First Amendment,” Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Executive Director Bruce Brown said in a statement. “This kind of newsgathering is not only constitutionally protected, but all the more needed during times of crisis.” The jury in Sahouri’s case deliberated for less than two hours before reaching a not guilty verdict on the two misdemeanor charges, according to reports. If convicted, she faced fines and up to 30 days in jail, per NPR. Sahouri’s ex-boyfriend, Spenser Robnett, was arrested at the same time she was. He also was acquitted. (Read more Black Lives Matter stories.)