Woman Around Town has readers all over the world, but our primary audiences live in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since Debra Toppeta and I launched the site in 2009, we have been cognizant that the majority of our readers in these two blue areas tend to vote Democratic. But we made the decision that covering politics would not be something that we would highlight. Yes, we covered the women’s marches in those two cities. We are, after all, a site for women. And every now and then, a political comment may find its way into a story. But by and large, we have steered clear of politics.
When Covid-19 hit, we stuck with that decision. We wanted Woman Around Town to remain a safe space where our readers could come and find stories that would help them cope with being in isolation, trying to find a new normal. But the death of George Floyd, another senseless death of a black man in America, unleashed unprecedented, and largely, peaceful marches around our country. That became our tipping point. We can no longer remain silent. We want our readers to know we support the protestors marching against racism and we are very concerned – and have been for a long time – about the direction our country is taking under President Trump. Watching peaceful demonstrators being violently pushed back with military police using flash bangs, stinging gas, and plastic bullets so that Trump could pose for a photo op in front of St. John’s Church, was visual evidence for how far our country has fallen. This stunt was one that might have been expected in a dictatorship, not in the U.S.
For more than three years, as members of the press, we have also been seriously alarmed by President Trump labeling the press “the enemy of the people” and “fake news.” During the demonstrations, many members of the press, including a journalist and camera person from Australia, were targeted for violence by the police. This is the letter that was sent out this week by Jane Tillman Irving, President of the New York Press Club:
Journalists, and journalism, are under attack.
Here in New York City and across the country, reporters covering the police killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed have been arrested and assaulted by law enforcement, even after identifying themselves as members of the press.
Weapons of crowd control, including rubber bullets, have been used. One freelance photographer working in Minneapolis reportedly will lose sight in one eye.
The New York Press Club condemns the actions of law enforcement in these situations and calls for a full investigation.
Our job is to find the truth and present it, our freedom to do so guaranteed by the Constitution. It is a cornerstone of American democracy.
Our press passes permit us to go behind police lines in order to do our job, and the New York Press Club stands by our fellow journalists in their determination to carry out that duty. We, and they, will not be deterred.
Jane Tillman Irving
The New York Press Club
In addition, The National Press Club in Washington D.C. released this letter (https://www.press.org/newsroom/journalism-groups-call-police-nationwide-halt-use-violence-arrests-against-journalists) in response to the police crackdown on journalists. Following release of the letter, Mike Freedman, President of the National Press Club stated in an interview on WNYC-FM yesterday, [that] “to silence the press is to silence the people.”
Rest assured, we are not going to abandon our original mission for Woman Around Town, as expressed on our Facebook page: “For women wanting the best out of living in New York or Washington, D.C.” But please know, Woman Around Town and our writers are members of the press, having won over 25 awards for journalism. We take our responsibility to truthful reporting seriously. When our cities reopen, we will be back to reviewing cultural events and the meals we enjoy in restaurants. We will continue to spotlight amazing women who are working to make both of our cities and, in fact, our country, better than ever before.
But we will also not shy away from calling out those in charge when we believe they have crossed the line. And we want to hear from you. Come to our Facebook page or send us an email. We are all in this together. We can no longer remain silent or sit on the sidelines. There’s too much at stake.
Top Shutterstock photo: Peaceful Protests Outside the White House, June 2, 2020.