Officials at The Citadel apologized Monday after a New York journalist said campus police officers knocked her cellphone from her hands and shoved her as she photographed protesters who had thrown glitter at Rick Santorum.
The reporter was interviewing participants of "Occupy Charleston" outside the military college's Mark Clark Hall after the Republican presidential candidate congratulated his competitors in the South Carolina primary Saturday night.
Some of the interviewees had tossed glitter at the third-place finisher and yelled "bigot," "Santorum hates gays" and "you're not welcome in South Carolina" as he signed autographs for supporters. Such "glitter bombings" protest Santorum's stance on gay rights.
After the incident, campaign workers swiftly pushed about a dozen protesters outside, where campus public safety officers continued to usher them away. The reporter, Rosie Gray of buzzfeed.com, was wearing a badge marked "press" and had identified herself to the officers as she followed them out of the building.
"As she's trying to ask these questions, they shoved her around, and yelled, 'No cameras,' " said Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of buzzfeed.com. The website aggregates trending Internet topics and produces some original content.
"They knocked her phone out of her hand," Smith said. "She just wanted to do her job."
A photograph from Gray's iPhone shows part of a hand obstructing the view of people posing. Several of the protesters had earlier been featured in a CBS News video of the glitter attack.
"She was just trying to take a photo of everyone," one of the protesters, 22-year-old Adrianna Varedi of Charleston, said. "She was denied the privilege that the press usually has in a political rally."
Gray said she was uninjured but that she picked up her phone and left without fully reporting the story. Many of the protesters came to her defense, yelling, "She's press, she's press."
The apology issued this afternoon by Jeff Perez, The Citadel's vice president for external affairs, said the officers had been removing the protesters from the campus so they wouldn't cause a "further disruption."
"Regretfully, one of the officers did indeed say, 'no pictures,' which he should not have -- he was trying to make clear that he was not going to stop" escorting them off campus, Perez said. "Our Public Safety officers are receiving further training in order to help members of the public and representatives of the press understand the actions officers are taking so that their experiences on campus can be positive."
Smith called Gray an experienced reporter who has covered "Occupy Wall Street" protests in New York City but has never clashed with the police.
He said The Citadel incident was a teachable moment as the primary season ramps up. Santorum had previously faced such glitter attacks in Iowa and did again today at a stop in Lady Lake, Fla., according to news reports.
"We're glad they apologized and hope they won't do it again," Smith said. "We understand that police officers often face stressful and chaotic situations but don't think it's too much to ask that they respect the freedom of the press in those situations."
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.