U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Freelance photojournalist struck with baton while covering DC protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 31, 2020


Was the journalist targeted?
May 31, 2020

Freelance photojournalist Matthew Rodier was struck with a baton while documenting protests in Washington, D.C., on May 31, 2020, the third evening of widespread demonstrations in the nation’s capital after the death of George Floyd.

The protests were held in response to a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of 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.

Rodier, who frequently contributes to the Sipa USA agency, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker via email that at about 10:30 p.m. he’d found himself in the path of a line of advancing officers on H Street. “When they got really close I put my hands in the air and shouted ‘I’m a journalist’ multiple times,” Rodier recounted. He said an officer in front of him “spun me around and hit me with a baton in my posterior hard enough to drop me to the ground.” Rodier said he yelled, “I’m a journalist,” again and that the officer responded, “I don’t care. Get out of here.” A protester helped Rodier up.

Rodier was unclear what law enforcement agency the officers belonged to. Later that evening, an individual assaulted Rodier and broke his jaw. The Tracker captured that incident here.

D.C. is notable for the large number of different police forces that operate within its borders. Requests for comment from the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police were not returned.

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].