CBS Chicago reporter assaulted by individual while filming Columbus statue protest

July 17, 2020

CBS Chicago reporter Marissa Parra was assaulted by an individual 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 following a rally for Black and Indigenous people, 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.

When Parra arrived at the park a little before 8 p.m., there was a group assembled around the statue. “People were trying to knock it down and climb on top of it all together at once,” Parra told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. She tweeted a video of individuals trying to pull down the statue:

“It’s a big moment for many reasons … but as I’m trying to [film] that, someone comes up to me, and people are trying to block my view, and I just hear, ‘Don’t record him, stop recording, put your phone down,’” she said.

She posted the moment when some of the protesters approached her, blocking her view:

Parra said she refused to stop recording and, moments later, was attacked.

“It ended up with me and another girl, a white woman dressed all in black … rolling on the ground together,” Parra told the Tracker. “My hands were clenched around the phone. She was trying to get the phone from my hand … her fingernails dug into my skin enough to draw blood.”

Parra said she tried to de-escalate the situation and eventually moved from the location she was filming, but protesters followed her.

“I’m trying to figure out how do I keep doing my job while not becoming part of the story,” she said.

She said other protesters had approached her later to ask if she was OK, but to refrain from filming protester faces.

At that same protest, a Chicao police officer also knocked her phone out of her hand with a police baton, Parra said, an incident the Tracker has documented here.

While she walked away with minor injuries, the incident, she said, warranted a larger discussion about what’s at stake when covering stories in this current socio-political climate.

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]

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