U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

CBS Chicago journalist reports assault by police during Columbus statue protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 17, 2020
Chicago, Illinois


Was the journalist targeted?
July 17, 2020

Chicago-based journalist, reporter Marissa Parra of CBS Chicago said she was assaulted by police while covering demonstrations in Grant Park on July 17, 2020.

Parra was documenting the scene surrounding the park’s Christopher Columbus statue, where reports estimated that at least 1,000 people had gathered, eventually attempting to topple the monument to the 15th-century explorer.

Removal of Columbus monuments around the country has been a focal point for many nationwide groups given the explorer’s history of colonization and violence toward Indigenous people.

During the demonstrations in Chicago, which included a rally in support of Black and Indigenous people, police and protesters clashed. Forty-nine officers, according to the Chicago Police Department, were injured, with 18 sent to the hospital, while demonstrators filed at least 20 complaints for excessive force and other grievances with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Marissa Parra told the Tracker in an interview that she showed up at the park just before 8 p.m. She said she saw individuals gathered around the statue, that it was covered and an individual was attempting to pull it down with a rope.

Not long afterward, clashes between police and individuals turned violent. A video she filmed shows police using batons to strike demonstrators.

She said she was filming live among the demonstrators when she was struck by a police baton. The blow knocked the phone out of her hand. Parra tweeted footage of the incident, writing: “You can see him kick it after it lands on the street. Heard a different officer say a few min later, ‘don’t touch her- she’s media.’”

“It feels like it was … very intentional … I had my press badge around my neck ... he didn’t try to tell me to move or push me out of the way of anything. He hit my phone ... and then the fact that he kicked it across the ground ... that to me says everything. That was a show of force,” she told the Tracker.

Parra filed a complaint with COPA as well and has yet to hear back. The office didn’t respond to a request for comment from the Tracker as of press time.

“Honestly, the only next step is to just keep doing what I was doing before, with more passion than before,” Parra said.

Later that evening, Parra was assaulted by an individual who attempted to take her phone to prevent her from filming, an incident the Tracker has documented here.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or having their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

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