Central Track editor hit with flash-bang grenade while covering Dallas protest

May 30, 2020

Pete Freedman, the co-founder and editor of the Dallas alternative news site Central Track, was hit with a flash-bang grenade while he was reporting on a protest in the Texas city on May 30, 2020.

The protest against police brutality and racial injustice in Dallas was one of many held across the country in response to a video of the police killing of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25.

Demonstrators gathered outside City Hall in Dallas early in the afternoon and briefly marched through downtown, The Dallas Morning News reported. When the protest returned to the plaza, confrontations escalated with police, and law enforcement used tear gas and flash bangs on the crowd.

Freedman told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he started livestreaming the demonstration from around 3 or 4 p.m. He said tensions between protesters and police were high, with protesters shouting their frustrations at police, and police shouting instructions at the demonstrators. At one point, he said, a SWAT team arrived in armored trucks, shouting at protesters to move back onto the plaza from the street, and deploying tear gas on the crowd.

Freedman said he was trying to get to the other side of City Hall around the east side of the building, but the police would only allow people to leave by going around the west side. He said he was walking with a crowd of people against the building while police fired flash-bang grenades and tear gas toward them.

In a video posted on Instagram, Freedman can be seen walking with protesters as police move the group toward the City Hall building.

“They are literally putting our backs up against the wall here,” he says.

At the 33:30 mark, Freedman’s camera is pointing out to the empty plaza in front of the building, when a canister can be seen passing by before an orange flash in the lower right side of the frame. Freedman told the Tracker that was when the device hit him in the leg and exploded.

“There's no avoiding it,” he said. “It skirts right into my path and it happens to, like, explode right as it hits like my shin.”

Freedman said he was wearing a press badge, including his photo, outlet and the words “press” and “media,” on a lanyard. He said he didn’t believe he was targeted because he was a journalist. He said that the use of crowd-control devices seemed indiscriminate.

“The scary thing to me was that there was no regard for who anybody was,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Dallas Police Department told the Tracker they couldn’t find any record of the incident.

The explosion shocked him, he said. When he looked down a little while later, he said he saw he was bleeding. The device left him with a bruise and a cut, altogether the size of a baseball. He said the wound wasn’t very deep and he was able to follow the protests for the next eight hours without treating it, but it took about a month to fully heal.

Freedman said that he has covered many protests in Dallas in the past, but after he was hit with the flash-bang grenade, he was more alert about how to identify himself as a journalist. A few days later, he said he bought a vest marked “PRESS.”

“Covering the rest of the summer I think I was much more aware of maybe having to better identify myself,” he said.

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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