U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

California reporter assaulted at meeting as man grabs camera

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 6, 2023


Was the journalist targeted?

Journalist Doni Chamberlain shows the lanyard that was around her neck when a man grabbed at it, giving her whiplash, as she recorded a July 2023 meeting of conservative activists in Cottonwood, California.

July 6, 2023

Journalist Doni Chamberlain said she was assaulted by conservative activists in Cottonwood, California, on July 6, 2023, after they surrounded her at a meeting and demanded she leave.

Chamberlain, publisher and owner of A News Cafe, an online news magazine, was eventually escorted out of the gathering by deputies from the Shasta County Sheriff's Department. She has since filed charges against one of the activists, Mark Kent.

Chamberlain said that at one point Kent, who the Redding Record Searchlight describes as a far-right political activist, ordered Chamberlain to leave and grabbed her phone, which was hanging from a lanyard around her neck as she recorded the meeting for Facebook Live.

“It caused the strap to snap my neck and pitch my head forward,” Chamberlain told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “It was momentarily like being hanged by my own phone strap.”

Chamberlain said she went to the emergency room the next day and was initially diagnosed with whiplash and a concussion. Later, her primary care physician diagnosed her with a traumatic brain injury. She said she has continued to experience severe confusion, aches in her neck and upper back, and tingling in her left hand.

Chamberlain explained to the Tracker that she found the invitation for the first of a monthly series of meetings posted on Facebook by Jesse Lane. Lane, who The Sacramento Bee calls “an up-and-coming leader in the local far-right movement,” had previously posted of Chamberlain, “I think it’s time we remove her from our way of living.”

Chamberlain said she was the only media present at what she considered a public gathering and added: “I maintain that as a journalist, covering meetings that most citizens are too afraid to attend, I had a right to be there to report.”

But immediately after she arrived at the community center where the meeting was held, she said she was approached by Lane, who told her to leave. She was then approached by several more attendees, who repeated the demand. One attendee blocked Chamberlain’s camera with her hands and face. Chamberlain said that while she was surrounded, the meeting opened with approximately 200 people who prayed for her “salvation.”

Lane ultimately called police to report her for trespassing and four sheriff's deputies subsequently arrived to escort her out of the building.

The sheriff’s office told the Tracker via email that the district attorney’s office for Shasta County is reviewing Chamberlain’s case, but declined to release the report of the sheriff’s investigation.

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