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Phoenix police chief apologizes after unlawful assembly statement

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams apologized to local media on Friday night following a statement made by Public Affairs Bureau Director Dan Wilson regarding unlawful assembly earlier in the day.

To Our Partners in the Media:

The Phoenix Police Department’s number one priority is the safety of our community members. We also want to ensure that journalists are able to perform their role as watchdogs in our community without facing harm.

I want to apologize for a statement our Public Affairs Bureau issued earlier about unlawful assembly. The Phoenix Police Department fully supports the free press and Journalists’ right to report the news.

In no way do we intend to curtail your right to collect and report the news. We value our relationship with the media.

I hope you will accept this sincere apology for our miscommunication and know that myself and my officers stand committed to work with you to protect free speech.

At 1:44 p.m. on Friday afternoon, KTAR News received an email with a statement from Wilson that “an unlawful assembly is when a group of people are involved in criminal activity and are posing a danger to themselves or others.”

The email explained that the incident commander will ultimately make that determination as it pertains to the safety and security of all those in the area.

An announcement will be made over a loudspeaker so that the assembly will be given time to disperse, but “people who fail to follow the instructions may be subject to arrest,” according to the email.

Those who remain in the area, including those on private property, roadways or sidewalks after an Unlawful Assembly is declared are subject to arrest. The Unlawful Assembly declaration is not targeted to specific individuals such as demonstrators or people acting in unlawful ways, rather for the safety of all individuals, applies to everyone in the area, including journalists.

Members of the media have the same Constitutional rights of free speech and assembly as any other member of our community. Members of the media also have the same duties and responsibilities to respect Arizona law, including when law enforcement declares unlawful assembly.

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