U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

DC police fire crowd-control round past journalist’s head during protest

Incident Details

October 27, 2020

George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, ignited a sweeping assembly of protesters across the United States — and the globe — a staggering, monthslong outcry for police reform and racial justice. In many moments peaceful, in many others bracingly violent, journalists of all stripes took to documenting these demonstrations. At times, to do the job meant to expose oneself to the effects of riot-control agents, to face harassment from individuals or law enforcement officials, to fear for your safety or have your reporting interrupted. Below is a geographically organized roundup of such examples from around the U.S. during November 2020, a notably fraught month backdropped by an election, rising COVID-19 cases, and an increasingly encumbered economy and workforce.

A full accounting of incidents in which members of the press were assaulted, arrested or had their equipment damaged while covering these protests can be found here. To learn more about how the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents and categorizes violations of press freedom, visit pressfreedomtracker.us.

Oct. 27, 2020

In Washington, D.C.

  • Independent journalist Wyatt Reed had a crowd-control munition shot past his head at close range while he covered a protest in Washington, D.C., over the death of Karon Hylton, a 20-year-old Black man who crashed an electric scooter while being pursued by police on Oct. 23 and died three days later. Police said they had attempted to stop Hylton after he was observed driving on a sidewalk and not wearing a helmet. Protesters gathered at the Metropolitan Police Department’s Fourth District station, less than a mile from where Hylton was killed. When Reed arrived, he said the situation was tense and the crowd of protesters had been pushed back to the corner of Georgia Avenue and Missouri Avenue, just south of the precinct. In a video Reed uploaded to Twitter at 8:46 p.m., the situation appears relatively peaceful as a line of police officers stands in the street in front of a group of protesters. Suddenly, one officer rushes forward and fires a crowd-control munition, which appears to flash past at eye level, just to the left of Reed. Reed told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that, looking back on the video, he believes an officer positioned behind the line of police may have been hit with a thrown object, prompting another officer to rush forward and fire. Reed said the fired munition passed about six inches from his head, and that officers were shooting with “fairly little to no regard for who they could hurt.” While he was standing at the front of the crowd near officers, was filming on a large camera and had his press identification “prominently displayed,” he said the incident felt like it was the result of “incompetence more than malice.”

Information in this roundup was gathered from published social media and news reports as well as interviews where noted. To read similar incidents from other days of national protests also in this category, go here.

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