U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

HuffPost reporter arrested while covering protest in Brooklyn

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 30, 2020
Location
New York, New York

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
New York City Police Department
Charges
  • Unknown
    • May. 31, 2020: Charges pending
    • Sep. 30, 2020: Charges dropped
Release Date
Unnecessary use of force?
Yes

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
Phoebe Leila Barghouty

The arrest of HuffPost senior reporter Christopher Mathias during protests in New York on May 30, 2020, was captured by freelance journalist Phoebe Leila Barghouty.

— Phoebe Leila Barghouty
September 30, 2020 - Update

Charges dropped against HuffPost journalist

Senior Huffpost reporter Christopher Mathias confirmed to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in 2022 that all charges brought against him by the New York Police Department in May 2020 were dropped that same year.

Mathias was covering Black Lives Matter protests in the New York borough of Brooklyn on May 30 when a police officer ran into him, telling him to move out of the way. After insulting the officer, Mathias was hit with a police baton, arrested and charged.

Mathias told the Tracker that he received a letter in September 2020 notifying him that all charges had been dropped. The Civilian Complaint Review Board had received multiple complaints about the arresting officer, which were sustained.

Mathias said he’s unsure whether the officer was disciplined. Neither the NYPD nor the New York District Attorney’s Office responded to requests for comment.

May 30, 2020

Christopher Mathias, a senior reporter with HuffPost, was arrested by police while covering anti-racism protests in Brooklyn, New York, on May 30, 2020.

The protests in New York began as demonstrations spread across the country since May 26, sparked by a video of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest. Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Mathias was covering protests in the Flatbush area on the night of May 30, where he told HuffPost that a dumpster and at least two police cars were set on fire when police began arresting people. Freelance journalist Phoebe Leila Barghouty posted photos on Twitter that appeared to show a New York City police officer restraining Mathias shortly before 11 p.m. and confirmed a short time later that it was Mathias who had been detained.

In an interview with The New York Times about the incident, Mathias said that a police officer ran into him, telling him to move out of the way. Mathias told the Times that he insulted the officer, who then turned around and hit him in the stomach with a baton. Mathias was then taken into custody.

Mathias was wearing a press badge at the time of his arrest, according to HuffPost and photographs of the incident. Other journalists who witnessed police taking him into custody told HuffPost that Mathias was clearly identifying himself as a journalist.

HuffPost reports that, according to Mathias’ wife, his phone was knocked from his hand during the encounter.

HuffPost condemned Mathias’ arrest on Twitter shortly after he was taken into custody and demanded he be released.

Mathias was released from police custody at around 1 a.m. on May 31. The Times reports that he was issued a summons.

Mathias did not return requests for comment about his arrest and HuffPost did not immediately reply to an inquiry seeking more details. The New York City Police Department did not reply to a request for more information about the incident.

Mathias posted on Twitter on May 31 that he was home after he had been taken into custody. He did not offer details about his arrest, but described it as “bogus.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting damage of equipment and multiple journalists arrested or struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas while covering related protests across the country. Find all of these cases here.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].