U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Free Press journalists say they were targeted with chemical irritants while covering Detroit protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 30, 2020
Detroit, Michigan


Was the journalist targeted?
May 30, 2020

Free Press education reporter David Jesse said he was targeted with tear gas and rubber bullets by law enforcement while covering protests in downtown Detroit, Michigan, on May 30, 2020.

The protests were held in response to a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the United States since the end of May.

Jesse told the Committee to Protect Journalists — a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker — that around midnight on May 30th an officer threw tear gas toward the group of journalists he’d been standing with and that someone began to fire rubber bullets. Jesse wasn’t hit but felt the incident was targeted.

“I had my iPhone out in one hand, taking a picture of what’s going on, and in my other hand, I have [my] media credential out, you know, showing the media credential,” Jesse said, adding that the journalists were screaming, “Media!”

“It was very clear who we were,” he said. “We were all taking pictures. … It was very clearly aimed at us and getting us off the streets. There’s no doubt they were shooting right at us.”

Jesse told CPJ that he didn’t feel like any other deployments of tear gas were aimed at the journalists. “They were tear-gassing protesters and the cloud just sort of travels,” he said.

Several other Free Press colleagues were caught up in tear-gas and rubber-bullet fire that evening. No one was injured, and there are differing opinions as to whether the journalists were targeted. The Free Press did not respond to an emailed request for comment as of press time.

When contacted by CPJ, the Detroit Police Department’s voicemail box was full. The department did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment as of press time.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists being 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].