Photojournalist sues GSU police after they arrest him for taking pictures

A freelance photographer has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Georgia State University police and construction company Brasfield & Gorrie.

The suit stems from Ben Hendren's seven-hour-long detention on July 22, 2022.

"When I hear bad news, I respond to it and take photos and gather news," Hendren said.

And that's what Hendren said he was doing at a traffic stop where several Stop Cop City protesters had been detained. 

They were allegedly just protesting on a construction site on Georgia State University's campus over contractor Brasfield and Gorrie’s hand in building the public safety training center.

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Brasfield & Gorrie

"I approached the scene, identified myself as a journalist to Georgia State University police, and began photographing the detained persons," he said.

Hendren says he was never at that protest, just at the traffic stop.

He said he was on a freelance assignment with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Regardless, he said ten minutes after he began snapping pictures, GSU police grabbed him from behind. 

"They grabbed me by my hair and ripped my head up so they could see my face and take a photo of it," he said.

Ben Hendren, freelance photojournalist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

He accuses police of coercing Brasfield and Gorrie workers into claiming Hendren was on their job site that day.

"I knew I was the target of retaliation at that point," Hendren said.

Despite police detaining him for seven hours, they never charged him with anything. 

He claims officers ignored offers to see his press credentials and talk to his boss at the AJC on the phone.

Ben Hendren, freelance photojournalist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Nearly two years later, Hendren filed a federal lawsuit against both GSU and Brasfield & Gorrie for unlawful seizure, false imprisonment, retaliation, and negligence.

He's seeking an unspecified amount, but really, he said he's doing it to send a message.

"I don’t want this to happen to any of my colleagues ever again. I want those who are responsible for physically abusing me held responsible for their actions, but I also just want to stand up for journalism in general," he said. "An attack on one journalist is an attack on all journalists and the fundamental rights [with which] we hold government accountable."

A spokesperson for Brasfield & Gorrie asked to remain anonymous in saying the company does not comment on pending litigation.

A spokesperson for GSU said neither does it, adding they have not received a copy of the lawsuit yet.

Hendren said his legal team is in the process of serving the individual officers.

It's not clear when the suit could go before a federal judge.