ASBURY PARK, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Gustavo Martínez, a reporter with the Asbury Park Press, filed a lawsuit today alleging violations of his constitutional rights after he was unlawfully attacked, arrested, and jailed while reporting on police misconduct at an Asbury Park Black Lives Matter protest on June 1, 2020.
“I’m filing this lawsuit because a press badge should not be a bullseye,” said Mr. Martinez. “On June 1, while I was live-streaming police misconduct in Asbury Park for the Asbury Park Press, police targeted me, yelled ‘F--- him, he’s the problem!’ and then officers tackled me, slapped my phone out of my hand and took me to jail.” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal called Mr. Martinez the next morning to apologize and said all charges would be dropped.
On June 29, Mr. Martinez participated in a briefing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Mr. Martinez said, “I speak up today because the silencing of journalists by law enforcement is a fundamental threat to American democracy.”
Shireen Barday, a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, said that, “Journalists like Gustavo Martinez are preserving an extraordinary moment in American history by reporting on the Black Lives Matter protests. Duty bound, these brave reporters continue to deliver the news despite police attacks attempting to silence them. Gibson Dunn is proud to represent Mr. Martínez in this pursuit of justice.”
On July 8, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office released the findings of an investigation into the incident. Of those findings, Ms. Barday said, “Last week’s shameful investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office confirms that the First Amendment rights of reporters are not alive and well in New Jersey. The prosecutor concludes that none of the 14 law enforcement officers interviewed knew that Mr. Martinez was a reporter even though Mr. Martinez repeatedly said, ‘I’m a reporter’ at least five times, including in a video posted by the prosecutor on YouTube, where Mr. Martinez says to officers ‘I’m a reporter, bro,’ only to be told by law enforcement to ‘Shut your mouth.’ Not surprisingly, the prosecutor has refused to provide us with a copy of their investigative file or identify any of the officers involved.”
The City of Asbury Park, Monmouth County, the Borough of Belmar, Lieutenant Amir Bercovicz, and John Doe law enforcement officers are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Through his lawsuit, Mr. Martinez seeks, among other things, an injunction prohibiting the police from continuing to violate the constitutional rights of reporters and an order compelling reform in the police training curriculum.
Mr. Martinez is represented, pro bono, by Shireen Barday, Andrew Bernstein, Abiel Garcia, Cate Harding, Kate Lee, Marjorie McLean, Steven Spriggs, and Connor Sullivan of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Goutam U. Jois of Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans, LLP.
Mr. Martinez’s video from the night of the arrest can be found HERE.
A copy of the complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey can be found HERE [PDF].