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Baltimore minister, activist charged with robbing, assaulting Fox 45 reporters at George Floyd protest

Pastor Westley West, center, leads protesters supporting Black Lives Matter on a march from City Hall to W. Pratt Street, where they slowed traffic and generated some honking of horns in support. June 1, 2020. West was recently arrested and charged with assaulting Fox News reporters and stealing their equipment during one of the Baltimore protests.
Pastor Westley West, center, leads protesters supporting Black Lives Matter on a march from City Hall to W. Pratt Street, where they slowed traffic and generated some honking of horns in support. June 1, 2020. West was recently arrested and charged with assaulting Fox News reporters and stealing their equipment during one of the Baltimore protests. (Amy Davis)

A Baltimore pastor who previously ran unsuccessfully for City Council has been charged with assaulting and robbing Fox 45 journalists during recent protests outside City Hall, according to online court records and a Baltimore police report.

Westley West, 32, who is a pastor at the Faith Empowered Ministries in West Baltimore, is charged with five counts, including robbery, second-degree assault and theft under $25,000, for an incident involving the TV journalists, according to a redacted police report.

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This is not the first time West has been arrested during public demonstrations in the city. In 2016, a Baltimore jury found him not guilty of charges stemming from a protest outside a court hearing for the officers charged in the Freddie Gray case.

West was acquitted at the time of disturbing the peace and failure to obey law enforcement, and prosecutors dropped other charges, including malicious destruction of property and false imprisonment, before his trial started.

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In a statement, Bill Fanshawe, senior vice president of WBFF Fox 45, said the journalists were not hurt and emphasized the need for a free press.

“Our station will always support the Constitutional right to protest, a fundamental pillar of our democracy. At the same time, we also recognize the necessity of a free press, something that is more important now than ever before," Fanshawe said. "We ask that protesters recognize the important service that journalists everywhere provide, and should not be targets of anger and frustration.”

Donald Wright, an attorney for West, said that his client was falsely charged, and denied taking any items from the journalists. He said second-degree assault charges should be brought against the Fox reporter who he said put a microphone in West’s face and stepped in front of West.

Wright said that it was “absurd” that West would have taken items from the crew and that there was no evidence.

Speaking outside City Hall on Wednesday, West said he was facing “trumped up charges” to silence him.

“The charges and trumped up allegations against me are just an example of a culture that exploits and dehumanizes people of color like myself,” West said. “I am a firm believer that when the hate don’t work, they begin to tell lies. They start telling lies on me and the people that look like me.”

In a police report, the director of the station told police that the station’s journalists were outside City Hall just after midnight on May 31 when they were attacked.

Fox 45 journalist Dan Lampariello wrote on Twitter that he and photojournalist Jacob Fisher were chased away from the protests outside City Hall.

“We are safe and unharmed,” he wrote.

A Fox story from the protests said that the photographer was punched in the face. Video from WMAR reporter Ray Strickland shows a group from the protest surround the Lampariello and Fisher, before they back away and leave the crowd as some of the protesters cheer.

Wright said that video did not capture the interaction between West and the journalists, but of other protesters who confronted the reporters.

The police report said WBFF provided police with footage from the incident. The station was able to track equipment that was taken from the Fox crew, including a transmitter that had GPS, but that some of the equipment taken was destroyed or not recovered.

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A WBFF journalist at Wednesday’s news conference showed a still photo of West holding a Fox 45 microphone, and asked if that was not evidence that West had taken items from the crew.

Wright responded that West had not been charged with taking a microphone and that the photo was a “red herring and has no bearing on this case.”

According to online court records, West was arrested Monday and released on his own recognizance.

Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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