Freelance journalist struck in back by police while covering protests in Brooklyn

May 30, 2020

NYPD officers struck freelance journalist Phoebe Leila Barghouty in the back while she was covering protests in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush on the night of May 30, 2020.

The protest was among the many demonstrations held in the city sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest on May 25. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Barghouty tweeted a video at 10:44 p.m. showing a group of journalists and protesters following police orders to move out of the way and along a sidewalk, with text saying, “Here’s us being super chill before we got clocked in the back for no reason.”

After she stopped recording that video, “We got pushed by a shield. I felt it on my whole back and arms,” Barghouty told the Committee to Protect Journalists in a phone interview. She said she had “a lot of bruises” from the attack.

Barghouty said she repeatedly identified herself as a journalist during the attack, and was holding up her press pass.

She told CPJ that she did not believe police targeted her, but instead simply did not distinguish between protesters and members of the media.

Earlier that night, NYPD officers only retaliated against protesters who came close to them, she told CPJ, saying she did not know why police abruptly turned aggressive.

“We were scared of the trample effect. People were falling down and the police were walking over them,” Barghouty said, adding that she stayed out reporting for another hour after the attack.

Barghouty said the assault occurred after officers arrested HuffPost reporter Christopher Mathias; Barghouty tweeted photos of his arrest.

CPJ emailed the NYPD for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.

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

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