Freelance journalist Talia Ben-Ora was struck in the head with a book while reporting on a protest outside a drag story hour event in New York City on Dec. 16, 2023.
Ben-Ora, who also publishes under the name Talia Jane, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was reporting on a holiday-themed drag event in Manhattan at around noon, where protesters and “defenders” had gathered. The event took place without issue, she said, but as some of the defenders left, they were chased after by protesters.
As Ben-Ora followed the individuals around a corner while filming on her cellphone, two men turned around, with one taunting her by name and the second advancing toward her, attempting to block her from moving forward.
“I said, ‘Get the fuck out of my face.’ And he said, ‘Or what? Or what?’ while getting closer and closer,” she said.
Ben-Ora said that she had been taught in a self-defense class to distract a would-be assailant by knocking off one of their belongings so that she could get to safety while they retrieved it.
“I flipped his hat to get it off his head, there was no injury, there was no physical contact,” Ben-Ora said. “He responded by using the book and hitting me across the face with it with all his might.”
Police officers who had witnessed at least the start of the encounter examined Ben-Ora’s injuries — including visible swelling, redness and a wound on her lip — and advised Ben-Ora to file a police report. Ben-Ora said the assailant, Pedro Gutierrez Jimenez, was arrested on a charge of felony assault.
Ben-Ora was taken to the same precinct as Gutierrez to provide a statement. While she was there, some individuals connected with him arrived and attempted to film her.
“They provided that footage to their friends, of me sitting on a bench with an ice pack on my face,” Ben-Ora said. She said that during a livestream afterward, multiple individuals said that they should “slit that bitch’s throat” or go to her house to “protest.”
“These people are violently obsessed with hating me because of my reporting,” Ben-Ora said. “They made explicit threats to harm me and further target me because their guy got arrested for assaulting me. It doesn’t go away because he got arrested.”
According to court records reviewed by the Tracker, Gutierrez now faces five charges: three counts of third-degree assault and one count each of second-degree aggravated harassment and second-degree harassment. His next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2024.
Ben-Ora said there is also a temporary restraining order against him approaching her, which she said is automatic with assault charges.