Freelance photographer Andrew Jasiura was briefly handcuffed by police officers while reporting on protests in Buffalo, New York, on May 31, 2020. Jasiura said he was harassed and singled out because he is a freelancer rather than affiliated with a mainstream news outlet.
The protests were part of a wave of demonstrations across the country following the May 26 release of a video showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest. Floyd was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Local officials in Buffalo had placed the area under a 9 p.m. curfew following protests that had turned violent. Law enforcement dispersed crowds by using nonlethal weapons like pepper balls. Jasiura was reporting on those protests on May 30 when he was hit by pepper balls and a police officer attempted to grab his camera.
On May 31, Jasiura was photographing protests again when the police checked his credentials and told him to go home because the curfew was set to go into effect. But he noticed that local news crews were not leaving.
“So I went back out and stood next to them for a while, got a couple of pictures and then strayed off from the group to get a better angle,” he told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “And the cops came back over and handcuffed me.” He also said that the officers pointed guns at his head and said, “Fuck your First Amendment.”
Shortly after Jasiura was cuffed, he heard an officer say over the radio that they should cut him loose. He was freed after about 10 minutes, during which time police ran his ID and checked his credentials. Jasiura said that none of the other journalists on the scene were subject to similar treatment.
The Buffalo Police Department did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred total incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country related to the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Find these cases here.