Sunday, October 17, 2010

Alaska Dispatch Reporter Tony Hopfinger Provokes Incident At Joe Miller Town Hall Meeting In Anchorage, Gets Detained And Handcuffed By Private Security

On October 17th, 2010, Tony Hopfinger, the editor of the Alaska Dispatch news website, was detained and handcuffed by private security specialists at a town hall meeting for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller at Central Middle School in Anchorage, Alaska. He was released after Anchorage police officers arrived. Hopfinger was reportedly pressing Miller on whether the candidate had ever been reprimanded for politicking while working at the Fairbanks North Star Borough in 2008. Since Alaska Dispatch was the first of several local media organizations to sue for the release of records related to Miller's time working for the Fairbanks-North Star Borough, there's already been some bad blood between the Alaska Dispatch and the Miller campaign.

Here's a preliminary news video from KTUU Channel 2 (the Hopfinger story takes up the first three minutes):


Via Palingates, we have a video of Hopfinger's arrest itself. You'll notice him being initially secured behind the vending machine, then he is escorted down the hall away from the camera:

Naturally, Alaska Dispatch has already published their side of the story. According to them, here's what happened:

* Two or three bodyguards told Hopfinger to stop asking questions and to leave the building.
* Hopfinger continued to ask questions while apparently videotaping the candidate.
* Bodyguards told him that if he persisted they would arrest him for trespassing, but refused to identify themselves to Hopfinger.
* Hopfinger asked why he was trespassing, as the event was at a public school. Seconds later, he was then put in arm-bar and later handcuffed and sequestered at one end of a hallway for at least 30 minutes. He was told, "You're under arrest."
* Anchorage Police arrived on the scene shortly after.

Update 10:09 P.M: Craig Medred has now published an updated story on Alaska Dispatch. Hopfinger admits he put his hand on someone's chest merely to push him back out of the way, while security supervisor William Fulton claims Hopfinger "shoulder-checked" a guy into a locker.

Although they admit the story is still developing, they appear to still be whitewashing the role that Hopfinger himself may have played in provoking the situation to critical mass. Fortunately, Richard Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News provides a more balanced account. He reported that Wlliam Fulton, the owner of the Drop Zone, a private security firm that's been providing Miller's security, accused Hopfinger of trespassing at the public event, a town hall meeting sponsored by the Miller campaign. Fulton also said Hopfinger assaulted a man by shoving him. Hopfinger told ADN that he pushed the man away after he was surrounded by Miller supporters and security guards and felt threatened.

KTUU Channel 2 reported a more complete statement from Fulton. “The Dispatch reporter repeatedly pushed a camera into the face of Mr. Miller,” Fulton said. “He continued to aggressively pursue him. I told the reporter several times that he needed to stop and that he was trespassing, he ignored me. He then proceeded to stalk Mr. Miller and even shoved an individual into a locker. Based upon this trespass and his assault, we detained him and escorted him from the premises.”

Anchorage police released Hopfinger from the handcuffs and turned him loose after they arrived at the scene. No one was arrested or cited. They said they would leave it up to the District Attorney's office to decide whether to prosecute the security specialists for possible unlawful detention.

Joe Miller also reacted. In a statement on the incident Sunday evening, Miller said Hopfinger appeared irrational, angry and potentially violent. “While I've gotten used to the blog Alaska Dispatch's assault on me and my family, I never thought that it would lead to a physical assault,” Miller said. “It's too bad that this blogger would take advantage of a ‘Town Hall’ meeting to create a publicity stunt just two weeks before the election.” Read Miller's full press release HERE.

ADN Alaska Voices columnist Kevin Clarkson has just weighed in against Tony Hopfinger, and here's his money shot:

But the press and media should not, ever, get the idea that they have a right to force Joe [Miller] to answer. Trespass is tresspass, stalking is stalking, assault is assault no matter who you are, whether you are a reporter (albeit biased) or not. What does Hopfinger believe would happen to him if he aggressively pursued Lisa Murkowski with a camera shoved in her face, demanding answers to questions about her Kenai land deal, her self-serving earmarks for that Kenai road, or the rumors now flying around the internet regarding her past personal conduct? Does he have any doubt that he'd be sitting in another chair with his hands behind his back?

Blogger Thomas Lamb personally attended the event and notes the possibility of collusion between Tony Hopfinger, Jill Burke (another Dispatch reporter), and infamous gutter blogger Jesse Lee Griffin (Immoral Minority). Lamb also notes that Tony Hopfinger crossed the line when it was clear Joe Miller changed his direction because of Hopfinger engaging Miller's security detail in what started off as a shoving match.

As of this post, over 800 comments have now been posted to the ADN story. Half of them are from lunatics who use words such as "Nazi" and "Stasi"; none of these idiots ever lived under such regimes and are unqualified to discuss them. Some have criticized the haircuts of members of the security detail. Some defenders of Joe Miller also denigrate the Alaska Dispatch, referring to it as a hack job (which it isn't). Several note the Dispatch's whitewashing of Hopfinger's behavior. Here's a sampling of some of the more responsible comments:

Greg Pugh 13 minutes ago (8:42 P.M.)
I was there and this issue had nothing to do with Miller in any capacity. The reporter/editor would not move so people and Mr. Miller could leave the premise on his way to another event. He was told three times to move and then he shoved someone to keep his camera in the face of Miller. In my opinion, it was a stage act that keeps people off the issues and more of the same hack job reporting we have seen from liberal Alaska media. This is not journalism any longer it is simply an agenda

rdlined 20 minutes ago (approx. 8:35 P.M.)
Give it a rest, Mr Hopfinger you went looking for trouble & you found it!
They asked you to stop harassing THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR THE STATE OF ALASKA in an open forum event and you Mr Hopfinger would not stop your verbal harassment.

You call it "Asking questions" that's a joke! What you did was premeditated, you ducked into a hall way and sprung out in an attempt of ambush journalism. Or what normal people call harassment.

Not to mention the people you knocked down while trying to shove a camera in Mr Millers face, funny your side of the story leaves this out.

akflyfisher 21 minutes ago (approx. 8:34 P.M.)
Interesting. The Alaska Dispatch site says Tony Hopfinger was asked to leave and did not. I don't see this mentioned above. I don't see where the Alaska Dispatch mentions that Tony shoved someone. Minor details I guess.

Alpha_Blogger 51 minutes ago (approx. 8:04 P.M.)
The alaska dispatch statement left out the shoving part

Anubis56 46 minutes ago (approx. 8:09 P.M.)
I am not a Miller supporter, but I will come to the defense of the security. This reporter Hopfinger was within his right to bring a camera and ask questions, he is not within any rights to lay his hands on anyone. That is assault folks, no matter how small, and security was well within their right to detain him. What's more he admitted it. However, if Miller wants to avoid further disruptions , he should walk away from the race because if reporters bug him, he is not made to be a politician.

And this comment from the KTUU website:

Caterina at 6:17 PM October 17, 2010
Good for the security detail. I watched this over the top Dispatch person violate Joe's space to the point where it was untenable. Good job on arresting him.

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