She was photographing men praying at a sacred “eternal fire” and had her camera to her face when she was grabbed by law enforcement.
She was handcuffed with zip ties and transported to a couple of locations before being charged with obstruction of a governmental function, a Class A misdemeanor.
Earlier, NPPA joined with other media groups to ask local enforcement to allow journalists to do their work at Standing Rock without fear of arrest or other threats. In part, the letter read:
“It is important for journalists to document the events occurring in and around the camps at Standing Rock through the eviction process. The public has a right to know what is happening there. It is journalists’ jobs – and right under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution -- to cover the story through reporting, writing, photographing, videotaping and broadcasting these events as they happen.”
Williams got her personal possessions back the next day when she was released, but she noticed that her camera, audio recorder and cell phone were missing. A note was left saying they have been taken as evidence.
Osterreicher’s representation helped get Williams’ gear back without damage or deletion of data. They are still working on having the criminal charges dropped.
On Inauguration Day, independent photographer Orr had traveled to Washington, D.C. to cover the events surrounding the inauguration of President Donald Trump. He’d planned to do a portrait series that day and during the Women’s March on Washington the following day. In addition to his digital DSLR camera, he carried a Rolleiflex 120 film camera.
As the morning progressed, the interactions between law enforcement and protesters grew more aggressive.
“A lot was happening on both sides that I was witnessing and photographing,” Orr said.
He was with a group of about 60 protesters when police started to move in.
“All of a sudden, there was a line of riot cops on my left saying ‘go that way’,” Orr said. “That way” was another line of officers. Flash grenades and pepper spray were deployed and the group was cordoned off and detained.
Eventually, Orr and the others were handcuffed with zip ties and his gear was confiscated. In addition to the Rolleiflex, they took a Canon DLSR, two lenses, a Contax point-and-shoot, memory cards and Orr’s cell phone.
Orr was one of more than 200 people arrested and they were all charged with felony rioting. He was released late Saturday and soon after contacted Osterreicher.
Law enforcement wanted the images on the cameras for evidence but could not legally search them without either a warrant or permission from Orr. Osterreicher knew that a warrant almost certainly would be granted, but because of the volume of arrests it could take a long time and all that while, the cameras would still be impounded.
"It is always a difficult decision to allow the government to view journalist's images but in this case there was an almost certainty that they would get to do so anyway balanced against the fact that had we not consented it might have been weeks or months until the equipment was returned," Osterreicher said. "Had Cheney worked for a large news organization that could have given him replacement gear we might have decided differently."
Orr granted permission to have his files imaged and was able to get the cameras returned.
“I had jobs that upcoming week,” Orr said. “I really needed my digital gear back.”
The felony charges have also been dropped, though Orr is still waiting for the return of his images. Through it all, he’s been grateful to have Osterricher’s representation. “He’s been amazing, extremely helpful,” Orr said.
"It is always very rewarding to have a successfully result and I am just glad that I and NPPA could help," Osterreicher said.