Tony Hopfinger, the founder and editor of online news site the Alaska Dispatch, was handcuffed and detained by Joe Miller’s private security detail at a town hall yesterday at a public school in Anchorage, after he repeatedly tried to question and videotape the Republican nominee for Senate.Hopfinger told KTUU that he was questioning Miller over disciplinary action taken while Miller was a part-time attorney at the Fairbanks North Star Borough:
According to Hopfinger, Miller’s security team pushed him and he pushed back because he felt his personal space was being invaded. He says guards detained him and accused him of trespassing, although the town hall was a public event held at Central Middle School, a public building.
“At that point suddenly I was surrounded by more guys, more security guards I guess,” Hopfinger said. “They were kind of putting their chest into me, and at one point I put my chest in too…it got to be too much.”
The Alaska Dispatch is one of several news organizations suing the Fairbanks North Star Borough for Miller’s employment records.
William Fulton heads up DropZone Security, the firm hired by Miller for the event, and said in a statement that Hopfinger “repeatedly pushed a camera into the face of Mr. Miller. 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.”
Fulton also said he didn’t realize Hopfinger was a reporter until he said so. Fulton says he told Hopfinger: “Sir, that doesn’t matter: you’ve been asked to leave, this is a private event.”
Hopfinger was held in a hallway of the school until Anchorage police arrived. They did not charge him, but said they would forward the case to the district attorney’s office.
Here’s some (shaky) video of the “arrest,” where it appears Hopfinger asks the guards who they are, and “are you a police officer?”:
Miller put out a statement following the incident, claiming Hopfinger appeared “irrational, angry and potentially violent,” so “the security personnel had to take action and intervened and detained the irrational blogger, whose anger overcame him.”
Miller’s chief opponent, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), who launched a write-in campaign after losing to Miller in the primary, slammed Miller’s security team for “violating the constitutional rights of a United States citizen by illegally detaining him. I find it alarming that Joe feels he needs to hire security forces to protect him from Alaskan voters and members of the press.”
Meanwhile, Democrat Scott McAdams tweeted yesterday:
@JoeWMiller – in case you were unaware, the Constitution also applies to reporters #Ak #AkSen
The TPM Poll Average shows Miller leading Murkowski and McAdams 34.5-33.1-27.5.