A police officer in Ohio threatened to arrest a journalist for the crime of arguing with him on Facebook, Counter Current News is reporting.
The exchange played out on the Greene County Herald’s Facebook page, where journalist Virgil Vaduva, posting on behalf of his employer, engaged Dayton police officer Paul Harris in a discussion about recent events in the nearby Ohio town of Xenia. The discussion will make more sense in context, so here are the events leading up to it.
Xenia has a law on the books that bans panhandling within the city. Proponents claimed that the law curtails the town’s more aggressive panhandlers, who were apparently not above walking through the streets, harassing drivers by knocking on windows to ask for money, as well as creating a traffic hazard, according to Xenia World. Opponents of the law, including Vaduva, claimed that it made being poor and asking for help a crime.
To protest the law, the journalist went to Xenia on Saturday to panhandle in front of City Hall. He raised just over $40, which he promptly donated to charity.
He was charged with violating Xenia’s anti-panhandling ordinance, a Class 4 Misdemeanor (M4), and given a court summons.
On Sunday, the journalist was discussing his actions with Dayton cop Paul Harris via his employer’s Facebook page. At first, the men were having a civil, if spirited, discussion about panhandling.
Then this happened.
The thread in which the threat to arrest the journalist took place appears to have been removed from the Herald’s Facebook page. However, the threat has generated some spirited discussion nonetheless.
Some are criticizing the cop, rather colorfully, for his threat. Like user Dawson Boyd.
“It sounds like officer Paul Harris is a p***y with a small p***s and a badge. I wish I was driving through your town. I’d give him an education on constitutional law. Any time, any place Paul Harris, you are a coward, with a badge.”
Others, such as Dave Moseley, are taking the journalist to task for making himself a part of the story.
“I assumed it was still a newspaper standard that reporters and editors refrain from active involvement in the issues they cover, or might cover. I’ve had employee handbooks that stated as much. Is this a thing of the past?”
The issue of police threatening and intimidating journalists is one of the reasons the United States’ position in the World Press Freedom Index has fallen in recent years, to a dismal 49th out of 180 nations, according to this Inquisitr report.
As of this post, neither officer Paul Harris nor the Dayton Police Department have commented on Harris’ threat to arrest a journalist for arguing with him on Facebook.
[Images courtesy of: Getty Images/Dan Kitwood, The Moderate Voice]