Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Authorities Raid College Paper; Confiscate Riot Photos

City of Harrisonburg, VirginiaImage via Wikipedia
Offices of The Breeze, the student newspaper of Harrisonburg, Va.-based James Madison University, were raided by the county attorney's office and police last week, who confiscated hundreds of photos concerning an April 10 off-campus riot at which 30 persons were arrested and more than 40 were injured.

The Roanoke Times reports that The Breeze's editor-in-chief Katie Thisdell reluctantly complied with the request of Rockingham County Commonwealth Attorney Marsha Garst after it appeared authorities were prepared to remove the newspaper's computers.  According to the Times report, authorities copied more than 900 images from computer hard drives, only two-thirds of which depicted the riot. The fracas broke out at a spring gathering that drew more than 8,000 students.

The Breeze is being represented by attorneys from the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va. The SPLC believes authorities may have violated the federal Privacy Protection Act [42 U.S.C. sec. 2000aa], which shields news organizations from government searches  absent a warrant.

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