U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Cinematographer detained while documenting LA reproductive rights protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 24, 2022

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Status of Charges
Not charged
Arresting Authority
Los Angeles Police Department
Unnecessary use of force?
No

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
No
June 24, 2022

A cinematographer who works on documentary and feature film projects was detained in a kettle alongside other journalists while documenting reproductive rights protests in Los Angeles, California, on June 24, 2022.

Protests broke out across the country following the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial ruling overturning Roe v. Wade that morning, which established that the right to abortion is guaranteed under the right to privacy.

The first protests in LA began outside a federal courthouse around noon, the Los Angeles Times reported, and continued into the night. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented the assaults of at least eight journalists in the city that night.

Jean, who asked to only be identified by her first name out of fear of retaliation, told the Tracker she arrived in downtown LA to document the protests taking place near City Hall. She said she filmed from an overpass as some members of the crowd made their way to a highway entrance nearby, and then followed as members of the crowd made their way back into downtown.

“That was when protesting started happening a little differently — people started going against traffic and so on and so forth,” Jean said. “There came a point though where the protesting was stopped by the police, and this was when the first firework went off.”

Officer tried to stop the protesters from advancing, Jean said, but because of their small numbers they were unable to do so. She said that officers resorted to pushing and shoving her and many protesters while running past.

The group of protesters continued marching to another intersection, where Jean said police assaulted multiple members of the press, including independent journalist Tina-Desiree Berg.

“There was a major dash by poIice to the site of the crowd, and so many others rushed in to see what was happening,” Jean said. “In a video that I documented I was telling an officer that I am trying to see what is happening beyond him and while I am telling him this there is Tina — who’s also trying to do the same — except what I see is another officer with a riot gun strikes her across the face and stuns her.”

Jean said that before Berg was able to react, a second officer shoved her to the ground near Jean’s feet, and she helped Berg stand back up.

Soon after, Jean said she was corralled alongside the rest of the crowd and multiple journalists by police using a technique known as kettling, in which police box in a crowd before typically conducting mass arrests.

Independent videographer Sean Beckner-Carmitchel, who was also detained that night, told the Tracker they were released at 9:30 p.m. after being held for 30 minutes to an hour. The Tracker has documented all of the journalists detained in the kettle that night here.

“After already getting out of the kettle around the other side to head back to City Hall,” Jean said, “they still advanced on us again and threatened to kettle us for not dispersing quickly enough.”

“In general, what I take away from the night was that the initial response was to be forcefully aggressive and not follow basic protocol procedures,” Jean told the Tracker.

In October 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 98, which was written in order to ensure the rights of journalists while covering protests or other civic actions, according to NPR. The law states that “law enforcement shall not intentionally assault, interfere with, or obstruct journalists” and explicitly exempts members of the press from dispersal orders.

LAPD did not respond to a request for comment.

Find press freedom violations documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker at reproductive rights demonstrations across the U.S. here.

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