Freelance videographer Roddy Hafiz was shot at with crowd-control munitions during a chaos-filled night of 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.
Hafiz told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that shortly after 6 p.m. he had begun to document protesters next to Lafayette Square, near the White House. In a clip reviewed by the Tracker, camo-clad military police can be seen firing chemical agents into the crowd, which was then forced to retreat by a row of advancing U.S. Park Police officers mounted on horseback. Hafiz told the Tracker that as the crowd headed toward Constitution Avenue, officers fired one projectile at his feet and another at eye level, so close to his head that he could feel a rush of air pass him. He said that he identified himself to them as a journalist.
“I’m, like, ‘Hello, I’m media. You can see me holding a camera. Don’t point your weapons at me,’” Hafiz told the Tracker. “‘If you’re gonna shoot tear gas, obviously shoot it over me. Use whatever protocols you guys have been taught.’ I don’t think it’s to shoot at journalists point-blank, eye level.”
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.