U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Daily Caller journalist hit, detained by police while covering Wisconsin protest

Incident Details

October 8, 2020

Shelby Talcott, media reporter for the news website the Daily Caller, was detained and hit with a club by police while covering a protest in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin on Oct. 8, 2020.

The protest followed a Milwaukee County prosecutor’s Oct. 7 announcement that his office would not bring charges against a Wauwatosa police officer who shot and killed Black teenager Alvin Cole on Feb. 2. Cole, 17, had refused to put down a gun and ran away from police following a disturbance at a Wauwatosa mall. The Wauwatosa protest came amid demonstrations against police brutality and racism that had swept for months across the country, including in Wisconsin.

Talcott told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker she was following a car caravan protest through Wauwatosa, a Milwaukee suburb, the day after the prosecutor’s announcement. The caravan protest continued after a 7 p.m. curfew went into effect.

Talcott was in a car with her Daily Caller colleague Richie McGinniss, as well as independent social media reporter Brendan Gutenschwager and freelancer Blair Nelson. She said they parked the car when they came upon police making arrests. McGinniss and Nelson left the car to film the scene, but Talcott said she stayed inside because the situation seemed tense and she had a “bad feeling” about it.

McGinniss was filming police as they arrested Tracy Cole, Alvin Cole’s mother, when police confronted McGinniss and told him to leave, video he posted on his Twitter shows. When he jogged toward the car, police ordered him to the ground and hit him with night sticks, Talcott said.

As McGinniss was being detained, Talcott said officers surrounded the journalists’ car, pointed a taser at her head, and ordered her and Gutenschwager to get out and get on the ground. During the interaction, she said, an officer struck her on her upper left arm with a club.

Talcott said that she repeatedly identified herself to officers as a journalist. She did not have her press credentials out at the time she was arrested because she had been riding inside the car, she said. According to Talcott, McGinniss had his displayed, but an officer tossed aside his credentials when the journalists were being detained.

Talcott said her wrists were restrained and she was loaded into a police van. After about 10 minutes, she said she heard an officer outside the van ask if there were any credentialed press inside. When Talcott and McGinniss identified themselves as press, she said, they were released, but Gutenschwager and Nelson, who did not have any form of press credentials with them, were arrested and cited with violating the emergency curfew order.

The Tracker is documenting all arrests here.

The incident in Wauwatosa was the third time this year that Talcott had been arrested or detained while covering protests in 2020. In September she was arrested while covering a protest in Louisville, Kentucky, and in June she was briefly detained at a protest in Washington, D.C.

In response to the Wauwatosa arrests of his journalists, Daily Caller publisher and co-founder Neil Patel said in a statement reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “there is a definite problem” in the Wauwatosa Police Department. “They were brutally beaten with clubs for no reason,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Wauwatosa Police Department did not return a request for comment about Talcott’s detention.

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 these 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].