Freelance photojournalist struck by crowd-control munitions during Minneapolis protest

May 29, 2020

Photojournalist Zach Roberts was pepper sprayed and struck by multiple crowd-control munitions while covering the fourth night of protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 29, 2020.

Protests in Minneapolis and across the nation were 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.

Roberts told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was reporting freelance from Lake Street near the Midtown Light Rail Station at around 8:30 p.m. on the 29th when he was pepper sprayed by Minneapolis police.

“I got nailed [with pepper spray] right in the face, and one eye was just gone, there was so much pain,” Roberts said. “A lot of protesters swarmed me and offered me water and milk.”

He said that police then started firing rubber bullets “the size of a child’s fist” into the crowd, and one barely missed his head. About 15 minutes later, another ricocheted off a pillar and struck him in the leg, he told the Tracker.

“They were not aiming the way that you’re supposed to,” Roberts said, noting that police typically fire rubber rounds to ricochet off the ground into legs or at people’s chests. “They were aiming at head-level.”

About an hour later, Roberts was caught in a cloud of tear gas fired by Minnesota State Patrol troopers. He told the Tracker that he also felt targeted when the troopers began firing rubber bullets.

“I was hiding behind a bench trying to take photos and I had rubber bullets [coming at me]: I don’t know who they were aiming at other than me, because there was no one around me,” Roberts said.

Neither the Minneapolis Police Department nor Minnesota State Patrol responded to requests for comment.

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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