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Moya-Smith: Today, Jenni, Tomorrow, You

Jenni Monet, an Indian Country Media Network reporter, was arrested while covering a story — the long arm of the law is too long.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Well, the sots got Jenni. Next will be YOU. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re a journalist or water protector or protester marching on the White House – or even a sous-chef late for his shift just trying to cut through a hoard of pissed activists with placards and banners, if a pig wants you, he’ll get you:

“But, sir,” I can hear a chef crying as he’s handcuffed, “I’m not protesting. I’m just trying to get to work.”

“Bullshit,” the corpulent cop barks. “I know your kind. You’re under arrest!”

Simple as that.


And that scenario is not too far off the mark re: what happened to Jenni Monet the other day. She was just doing her job. Covering a scene at Standing Rock. And then, zip. The fanged fuzz snatched her like a kraken, pulled her into its slimy maw. Yes, the last thing you want to do these days is let the police (or a politician) know that you’re press.

“That might as well be a target,” I told an AP reporter wearing a massive ‘PRESS’ badge in Mandan, North Dakota, in November during a #NoDAPL non-violent action near the city dump.

“My boss is making me wear it,” she said.

“Well he’s a dick, then,” I responded.

And speaking of dicks, Trump, the troll on the American throne, hates reporters, too, for the same reason many cops hate reporters – we ask questions, and we demand answers. But sometimes too many questions will get you a different kind of response all together. Indeed. Simply being a journalist is more than enough reason for a badge or secret service agent to bullwhip you, beat you to burger, and then lock you up for disturbing the peace, among other vicious, trumped up charges. We’ve seen these rotten violations before. Nothing new to see here, folks. Just authoritative business as usual in ‘Merica.

Of course, there is no such thing as being in the “wrong place at the wrong time” for a journalist. When shit meets fan it’s our job to run toward it and report on the sullied scene, and for the next four years shit will most certainly meet a tangle of whirring fans, and often, too. In fact, I’m of a mind to get my attorney’s number tattooed on my arm. To hell with a Sharpie. That shit washes off after a couple days, or in 10 minutes with a Brillo pad and bleach:

“Gimme your arm, boy,” he says.

“What for?”

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Moments later, cries of severe pain echo off the walls and blood mixed with water runs down the side of the crusty sink…

Could happen. Right. So to hell with Sharpies. Tattoos, however, like evil and diamonds, are forever.

Obviously, I’m having dark thoughts here. I can’t think straight today anyway. I’m hopped up on Sudafed and Tylenol and Advil and hot toddies. The flu has got me and got me good. Everything’s a blur and nothing seems quite reality, but nothing has seemed quite like reality since November. No need for a skull full of drugs to beg the question, “Holy shit, did that really just happen?”

Meanwhile, emails and texts and other pinging things are flooding in. Jenni is out of jail. Good. That calls for more hot toddies. Later, I’ll wander toward the White House where I’m told there will be another protest against the orange despot.

“Bring Cheetos,” a friend said.

“When have you known me NOT to bring Cheetos?” I responded.

“And leave your press badge.”

“Hell no,” I said. “I earned this thing.”

And so has Jenni. Many times over. And this won’t be the last time a reporter is arrested whilst on the beat. The criminalization of reporting the news is on the rise in this country – because there are too many elected crooks and gentry criminals in high, influential places who don’t want reporters opening closets, exposing skeletons, and these opulent oligarchs with much o’ much to conceal use the police and the law as their means to keep their incongruous, back-alley doings on the sly … because they can, because that’s the system.

Few are fans of reporters anyway. I think pimps and used-car dealers are invited to more tables than we are. “Fuckin’ reporters! We don’t want your kind here!” has been shouted at me more than once. Sometime later, the same snarl sends me a message: “Hey! You should do a story on this thing I’m working on.” Hot damn. Gets me every time.

Well, by god, I think I’ll make this protest after all. My legs are back to working again, even if my eyes are still throbbing out of their sockets. And why can’t a reporter participate in a protest? It’s called participant observation journalism. You don’t just write about boxing, you become the boxer. Get in the ring. And get in the ring I shall. You should, too – but not before getting a lawyer’s number tatted on your flesh. Think about it.

The missive that Jenni was out of jail wasn’t a hallucination prompted by heavy meds after all. But, now, like the hundreds of conscientious water protectors, she’s locked in the choking grips of the putrid judicial system, as will you be if you’re not already. It’s only a matter of time – because there are rows upon rows of for-profit prisons, money to be made on bail, tickets to issue, and corrupt, elected asshats to pocket the avalanche of dough. Some people run for office to effect change. Others run for office to keep things the same, and to reap the rewards. To hell with the latter.

Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, is the Culture Editor at Indian Country Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @SimonMoyaSmith.

Simon Moya-Smith

Simon Moya-Smith