As Governor Speaks on Train Derailment, Reporter Is Cuffed

Ohio's Mike DeWine was holding presser when Evan Lambert was arrested for trespassing
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 9, 2023 8:28 AM CST
As Governor Speaks on Train Derailment, Reporter Is Cuffed
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine meets with reporters after touring the Norfolk Southern train derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio, on Monday.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

A broadcast reporter was pushed to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested for trespassing Wednesday while covering a news conference about the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in Ohio. NewsNation posted video of correspondent Evan Lambert being arrested in the gymnasium of an elementary school in East Palestine, where Gov. Mike DeWine was giving an update about the accident, per the AP. Lambert was held for about five hours before being released from jail, NewsNation reported. About 50 train cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash Friday night on the edge of East Palestine. Federal investigators say a mechanical issue with a rail car axle caused the derailment.

Nearby residents in Ohio and neighboring Pennsylvania were ordered to evacuate when authorities decided on Monday to release and burn chemicals from five tankers filled with vinyl chloride, sending hydrogen chloride and the toxic gas phosgene into the air. The news conference with updates on the derailment started more than two hours late, and DeWine started speaking at the same instant Lambert had to do a live broadcast from the back of the gym, Preston Swigart, a photographer who was with Lambert, told NewsNation. Swigart said police officers approached Lambert and asked him to stop talking. Lambert finished the live report, but he was then asked to leave by authorities, who tried to forcibly remove him from the event, NewsNation reported.

"From their standpoint, he didn't obey orders," Swigart said. "Gymnasiums are echoey and loud and sound kind of carries, so I'm guessing that they just didn't like the fact that there was sound competing with the governor speaking, even though it was all the way at the other end of the room." Video captured by NewsNation affiliate WKBN-TV showed Lambert on his face on the ground being handcuffed. He was then taken outside and placed in the back of a sheriff's patrol car. The Columbiana County Sheriff's Office said the arrest was made by officers from the East Palestine Police Department. At the end of his news conference, DeWine said he didn't authorize the arrest, and that reporters have "every right" to report during briefings. "If someone was stopped from doing that, or told they could not do that, that was wrong," he noted.

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A following statement from the governor's office said DeWine didn't see the incident because a bank of cameras blocked his view, but that he did hear a "disagreement toward the back of the gymnasium." DeWine "has always respected the media's right to report live before, during, and after his press briefings," the statement said. Mike Viqueira, NewsNation's Washington Bureau chief, called the arrest an infuriating violation of the First Amendment. As for Lambert, he said after his release, "I'm doing fine right now. It's been an extremely long day." He added that "no journalist expects to be arrested when you're doing your job, and I think that's really important that that doesn't happen in our country." He could still face charges of disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing, NewsNation said.

(More reporter stories.)

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