U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

BuzzFeed News journalist detained while covering Santa Monica protests

Incident Details

May 31, 2020

BuzzFeed News reporter Brianna Sacks was detained by Santa Monica police while documenting protests in Santa Monica, California, on May 31, 2020.

Protests that began in Minnesota on May 26 have spread across the country, sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest the day before. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Sacks told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was documenting protests in downtown Santa Monica around 6:30 or 7 p.m. when police officers began arresting protesters for failing to disperse and for violating the city’s 4 p.m. curfew.

“[The officers] pulled me out of the crowd, took my phone away, put it in my backpack and placed me in zip-tie handcuffs,” Sacks said. “I explained to them that I was media several times and they told me to just give them a few minutes and hold still.”

Officers looked at her press badge several times, Sacks said. She said they did not tell her why she was being detained.

Sacks said she was detained for approximately 15-20 minutes before officers flagged down a sergeant who told them to release her and remove the zip ties. The sergeant also told her that upon her release she would have to leave the scene. She did not.

The Santa Monica Police Department could not immediately be reached for comment.

In photos published by Sacks on Twitter, her wrists appear bruised and irritated from the tightness of the zip ties.

“[The officers] were pretty reasonable and my experience was incredibly mild based on what other reporters have been enduring,” Sacks said.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting damage of equipment and multiple journalists arrested or struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas while covering related protests across the country. Find all of these cases here.

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