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Denver Post reporter struck in head, body with multiple projectiles during protests

May 31, 2020

Denver Post reporter Alex Burness was hit by a pepper ball and foam projectiles while covering protests in Denver, Colorado, on the evening of May 31, 2020.

The protests were sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, for 7 minutes and 46 seconds during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

At around 8:40 p.m., Burness was reporting on Denver’s Colfax Avenue downtown when police deployed tear gas at protesters, a scene he described as “utter chaos.” He told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was hit in the back by a pepper ball.

“I was wearing my press credentials but I would not say I was targeted,” he said.

Burness followed protesters as they moved toward the headquarters of the Denver Police Department. Shortly after 10 p.m., police clad in riot gear began firing projectiles into the crowd, he said. Burness ran away from the clash, shouting “Press!” He said he was hit four times by projectiles, once in the temple, twice in his side, and once in his upper thigh. He was left with two “very big welts” on his side, and a small bump on his head.

Burness, who does not believe he was being singled out when he was hit, posted about the attack on Twitter, calling it the “most violent single moment I’ve covered over these four days.”

Jack Healy, a New York Times reporter, posted a photo of Burness’s side with a newly forming bruise:

Later that night, an officer pointed a rifle directly at Burness and Esteban Hernandez, a Denverite and Colorado Public Radio reporter. Burness described the rifle as the type used to shoot less-lethal projectiles. The Tracker has documented those cases here and here.

A request for comment to the Denver Police Department was not immediately returned.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.

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

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