Josh Wolf is an activist and freelance journalist who videotaped a small anti-globalism [sic] demonstration in San Francisco on July 8, 2005. The action protested the G8 summit in Scotland, where representatives of the richest countries were talking economic policy. The protest was led by activists who believe that globalization demolishes protections for the world’s most vulnerable and deepens the gap between rich and poor.
That particular evening, the protest got rambunctious, several demonstrators were arrested, a city policeman was smashed in the head and a firework was set off underneath a squad car.
Wolf edited his video and posted it on his website. Most of it is well-paced but boilerplate footage of demonstration clamor, though it includes a dramatic sequence of a cop subduing one protestor with a chokehold. Portions of Wolf’s video showed up on local TV news, for which he was paid.
Then the real fun started, and Wolf is now in federal prison for refusing to talk to a grand jury that’s demanding he turn over his raw tape and testify about demonstrators he interviewed.
It isn’t clear what’s driving the Wolf affair and why a minor fracas involving city cops and a handful of anarchists is in federal court anyway. One plausible theory is that because California — like most other states — has a shield law that enables journalists to withstand legal pressure to identify confidential sources, authorities wanted the case moved to federal court where journalists have no statutory protection…