Block Club Chicago journalist assaulted, his camera damaged at protest

April 16, 2021

Block Club Chicago reporter and photojournalist Colin Boyle was assaulted by a Chicago police officer while he was covering a demonstration in northwest Chicago, Illinois, on April 16, 2021. According to its website, Block Club is a local, reader-supported nonprofit newsroom “dedicated to delivering reliable, nonpartisan and essential coverage of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods.”

According to the Chicago Sun Times, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the city’s Logan Square Monument the evening of April 16 to demand justice for 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer on March 29, 2021. After several speeches and chants, the paper reported, the crowd marched north on Milwaukee Avenue, yelling phrases such as, "No justice, no peace, abolish the police!"

Boyle said he was leaving the demonstration around 9:50 p.m., after several hours of covering a peaceful protest, when he saw an alert on Twitter that said the Chicago Police Department was calling units to return to an intersection where Boyle had been photographing earlier.

Around 10 p.m., he said he arrived on the scene of a standoff between officers and protesters. Boyle said he had been following a group of protesters down West Logan Boulevard toward an area where police had blocked off the street.

"There was a police sergeant telling the police officers to form a line and two seconds later after he made that call, he looked at me and directed me to move," Boyle told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in an interview. Boyle said he began to move, but “under four seconds after the sergeant told me to move, an officer comes power walking up behind me and he says, 'Sir, he's not going to tell you again.'"

Boyle said he was holding a Chicago Police Department press badge in his hand and had press markings across his helmet and vest on front and back. He said he also verbally announced that he was press. Still, he said, the officer marched up to him and "shoved me backwards through a crowd of police officers."

According to Boyle, he repeatedly told the officer he was already moving, but the officer cut him off and said, "Nope, nope, nope. Keep on going." After being pushed through "a wall of his coworkers [officers] who did not intervene," Boyle said he lost balance and fell on his camera gear, breaking a camera hood, busting open a flash, and shaking up a telephoto lens, which he said still rattles from the impact.

"This is how you treat press credentialed by your department, again?" Boyle wrote on Twitter alongside several photographs taken at the scene. "Shameful."

After the incident, Boyle said he shared his frustration with CPD Director Glen Brooks, and a few days later he filed a formal complaint. As of early May, Boyle said, he had received no information on the status of his complaint.

Chicago police did not respond immediately to an emailed request for comment. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]

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