The weekend’s images of protests of the death of George Floyd also saw widespread reports of members of the media being attacked, harassed, injured and arrested as they covered everything from peaceful marches to looting and unrest.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, run by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said that they “are in the process of documenting at least 100 different incidents of aggressions against the media over the weekend” — from May 29 to May 31. The numbers may go higher as incidents are reported from Sunday evening. Of the more than 60 assaults on journalists they have tracked, 10 include damage to news equipment.
Still to be determined is how many of the incidents involved police action against journalists covering the protests, as reporters shared stories of being injured by members of law enforcement.
Just on Sunday evening, MSNBC’s Garrett Haake was on air, reporting on a tense situation near the White House, when he was hit by what he said may have been a rubber bullet. “Ah dammit,” he said, as anchor Katy Tur told him to “move out of there as quickly as you can.” In the same area, a CNN photographer was hit in the leg by a police officer with a baton even after showing his press badge, according to the network’s Alexander Marquardt.
In New York, The Wall Street Journal‘s Tyler Blint Welsh wrote on Twitter that the “NYPD hit me in the face multiple times with riot shields and pushed me to the ground.” He said that he was backing away as requested, with his hands up and press badge visible when he was struck. “I’m just sitting here crying. This sucks.”
In Long Beach, CA, KPCC radio reporter Adolpho Guzman-Lopez said that he was hit by a rubber bullet near the bottom of his throat. “I had just interviewed a man with my phone at 3rd and Pine and a police officer aimed and shot me in the throat,” he wrote on Twitter.
The incidents were only the latest during the weekend. On Saturday, Ali Velshi of MSNBC said that he had been hit by rubber bullets. On Friday night, a reporter for an NBC affiliate in Louisville was live on air when police shot rubber bullets at her, while Fox News’ Leland Vittert and his crew had to flee Lafayette Park as a mob targeted them. Early on Friday morning, CNN’s Omar Jimenez and his two person crew were arrested live on air. A freelance photographer in Minneapolis was shot in the eye while covering protests.
Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, cited the number of reports of journalists being attacked by law enforcement.
“The numerous, targeted attacks that journalists reporting on protests across the country have faced from law enforcement over the last two nights are both reprehensible and clear violations of the First Amendment,” he said. “These attacks not only endanger our free press, but also threaten our democracy and the essential role that journalists play in safeguarding constitutional rights.
He added, “Many of these attacks were captured on live broadcasts. The video evidence showing journalists under police assault simply for doing their jobs is harrowing. We strongly condemn these actions and will be contacting law enforcement in each jurisdiction to demand a full explanation and accountability for officers who knowingly targeted journalists.”
He also condemned the attacks on journalists by protesters. “Assaults on journalists from protesters are unlawful and make it harder for reporters to keep the country informed during this period of civil unrest,” he said.
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