Friday, August 19, 2022

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Alamance News reporter arrested while photographing Halloween demonstration

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Tomas Murawski, a staff writer for The Alamance News, was among those arrested at Saturday’s protest.

Murawski had taken a photo of the day’s first arrest when he himself was arrested.
Originally Murawski was told he was being arrested for failing to obey a lawful command from police who said that they had instructed him and others to clear out of the roadway around Court Square.

In brief comments on the sidewalk as he was being arrested, Murawski told the newspaper’s publisher (who had also been present to take photographs of the event) that he had been taking photographs, including of the day’s first arrest. He acknowledged being told to move out of the roadway and said he had been backing up to do so when he was arrested.

The charge actually filed was for delay, resist, and obstructing a police officer, because he allegedly pulled away from the arresting officer.

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Murawski is a 17-year veteran reporter with the newspaper, has won numerous state and national press awards for his incisive writing and quality photographs.

“Police had their hands full, but I cannot imagine that Tomas’ actions would have risen to a level warranting arrest, and I look forward to hearing some explanation for arresting a reporter for simply doing his job.”

Alamance News Publisher Tom Boney, Jr. expressed concerns over why Murawski could have been arrested “simply for covering the event.”

“Tomas has been an outstanding reporter and photographer for many years, and has always demonstrated strict professionalism in all his work,” the publisher said. “I cannot imagine that he did anything warranting his treatment at the Graham rally.”

“Police had their hands full, but I cannot imagine that Tomas’ actions would have risen to a level warranting arrest, and I look forward to hearing some explanation for arresting a reporter for simply doing his job.”

“Video recordings of the arrest do not show Tomas ‘jerking away,’ as alleged by police,” Boney said, “further adding to our dissatisfaction with the way he was treated on Saturday.”
“Frankly, it looks to me,” said the publisher, “that they were deliberately trying to make an example of him even though it should have been obvious enough from his camera and equipment (that they took but later returned upon his release) that he was merely ‘covering’ the event, not trying to participate in it.”

Police officials have not offered any explanation for more detailed reasons for the circumstances of the arrest other than that contained on the formal charge. He “had been asked several time to move,” the magistrate’s order states, “but refused. At the time, the officer was discharging and attempting to discharge a duty of his office by clearing the roadway.”

After a 3-hour processing period at a magistrate’s office at the county jail, Murawski was released on his own recognizance with the further proviso, given to all those arrested that day at the march and rally, that he not return to Graham for 72 hours (other than for work-related reasons).

He was at work Monday morning, covering a county commissioners’ meeting, Monday night in Burlington at that city council’s meeting, and Tuesday again at the news office and later for another Burlington city council meeting.

His court date has been set for December 14.

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