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Journalists in Uvalde are Stonewalled, Hassled, Threatened with Arrest

By Arelis R. Hernández and Paul Farhi for The Washington Post

UVALDE, Tex. — Journalists had been threatened with arrest for getting too close to the mourners, so Houston Chronicle reporter Julian Gill stayed in the designated media area when he reported on funerals the week after the massacre at Robb Elementary School.

Nevertheless, a phalanx of uniformed bikers confronted Gill outside the cemetery gates. They called themselves “Guardians of the Children” and claimed to be working with police officers who stood watch.

“I’m not trying to disturb anyone, guys,” Gill told the bikers, in a video he posted online. “I’m not trying to ask anybody any questions. I just wanted to watch. That’s all we can do, right?”

But the bikers followed and harassed journalists anyway, Gill wrote in the Chronicle. When he accidentally bumped into a Guardian who claimed to be a paramedic, the bikers accused him of assault and battery. “As a public servant, that’s kind of a felony,” the biker-paramedic said in the video.

A month after 19 children and two educators were killed at Robb Elementary School, a picture is emerging of a disastrous police response, in which officers from several law enforcement agencies waited for an hour outside an unlocked classroom where children were trapped with the attacker. But journalists who have flocked to Uvalde, Tex., from across the country to tell that story have faced near-constant interference, intimidation and stonewalling from some of the same authorities — and not only bikers claiming to have police sanction.

Journalists have been threatened with arrest for “trespassing” outside public buildings. They have been barred from public meetings and refused basic information about what police did during the May 24 attack. After several early, error-filled news conferences, officials have routinely turned down interview requests and refused to hold news briefings. The situation has been made even more fraught by the spider’s web of local and state agencies involved in responding to and investigating the shooting, some of which now blame each other for the chaos.

“Our reporters have covered [the 2017 massacre in] Sutherland Springs, the Fort Hood shooting, and some are very experienced, having been embedded with military in Afghanistan, covered revolutions in Latin American, and none of them could remember an experience like this,” said Marc Duvoisin, editor in chief of the San Antonio Express-News. “The interference was so intense and without an identifiable public safety purpose.”

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