A citizen journalist who was arrested on suspicion of battering a police officer near San Francisco’s Union Square during a Ferguson-related demonstration on Black Friday pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday and is being held on $75,000 bail.
Police arrested James Jennison, 36, on Friday evening after he allegedly tripped a police officer while he was on the ground being handcuffed, according to San Francisco district attorney’s office spokesman Alex Bastian.
Friday’s demonstration came days after an announcement made on Nov. 24 to not indict Ferguson, Missouri police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who is black.
Jennison, a Caucasian man with a slender build and brown hair, pleaded not guilty to felony battery with injury on a peace officer, felony threat to an executive officer, and misdemeanor battery on a police officer, according to Jennison’s private attorney, Zadik Shapiro.
Shapiro said Jennison formerly worked as a computer programmer in San Francisco and now works as a citizen journalist, who frequently livestreams political happenings onto the Internet. He has most recently been living at a San Francisco homeless shelter, according to Shapiro.
A number of Jennison’s friends showed up in court today to support him. Sarah Menefee said she and Jennison are close and that she has known him always to be a peaceful, funny, artistic and talented man. Menefee said that while Jennison “used language” at the officers, he is a nonviolent activist and has a right to speak his mind to police.
Clark Sullivan, also a livestreamer, said he has known Jennison for a long time and said that Jennison apparently bumped into an officer and was then detained. Sullivan said Jennison’s arrest was captured on video and uploaded onto YouTube.
In the video, it shows Jennison on the ground on his stomach being handcuffed by two police officers. Someone throws a piece of construction signage and it strikes one of the police officers.
The other officer attempts to go after the person who threw the sign, but trips over Jennison’s feet, while Jennison is still prostrate on the ground.
Sullivan said he believes “police made an example of him” and Shapiro agreed.
Sullivan said he is concerned that livestreamers are being targeted by police and he says there needs to be more of a safety net in place to protect citizen journalists, such as Jennison.
Jennison’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 16 at the San Francisco Hall of Justice.