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Monmouth Daily Voice serves Freehold, Howell, Long Branch, Manalapan, Marlboro, Middletown & Neptune

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Prosecutor: Asbury Park Police Justified In Arresting Reporter During Protest

Asbury Park protest
Asbury Park protest Photo Credit: Kimberlee Petillo

Asbury Park police were justified in arresting a newspaper reporter during a June protest, authorities said Wednesday.

An internal affairs investigation led by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office concluded that the Asbury Park officers who arrested APP journalist Gustavo Martinez Contreras during the June 1 George Floyd protest "reasonably believed he was one of the protestors," Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said.

"Arresting officers had no knowledge they were apprehending a reporter."

Martínez was covering the demonstration for and arrested while live-streaming the tense conclusion of the rally on Twitter. Martínez was also recording officers aggressively detaining other demonstrators at the time he was taken into custody.

Charges on Martinez's arrest were dropped the following day.

Martinez was not immediately available for comment when Daily Voice reached out Wednesday.

Not all journalists were readily identifiable as members of the press, including Martinez, whose press ID -- dangling from his neck -- was facing backward when the first officer confronted him, authorities said.

Gramiccioni's office interviewed 21 people, including 14 law enforcement officers and Martinez, reviewed body-worn camera footage and social media posts captured during the protest.

 “We fully support and embrace the First Amendment protections that journalists’ have to report the news. Our investigative findings are in no way inconsistent with those important constitutional safeguards,” Gramiccioni said. 

"Martinez, unfortunately, was one such journalist whose affiliation with a news organization was extremely difficult to discern," the report said.

State Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal apologized for the reporter's arrest and all charges against Martínez Contreras were dropped. The newspaper did not release any immediate reaction to Gramiccioni's findings.

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