U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist harassed, shoved while covering protest in Texas

Incident Details

Date of Incident
October 22, 2022


Was the journalist targeted?
May 17, 2023 - Update

Man fined for assaulting independent journalist

A man who shoved and threatened independent journalist Steven Monacelli while he was documenting a protest in University Park, Texas, was sentenced for the assault on May 17, 2023, the University Park Municipal Court confirmed in response to a records request by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Shortly after Monacelli arrived to document a demonstration against transgender rights in October 2022, he was called an "antifa journalist" by one of the organizers and an antisemitic slur by one of the demonstrators. He was then approached by John Fournace, who shoved and threatened him, claiming that Monacelli had doxxed him, or publicly disclosed personal information about him as a form of online harassment. Fournace was arrested and cited for the assault.

Fournace pleaded no contest and was given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay a fine of $327. The case was dismissed in September 2023.

October 22, 2022

Independent journalist Steven Monacelli was assaulted while documenting a protest in University Park, Texas, on Oct. 22, 2022.

Monacelli, who reports on extremism, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that the protest in Coffee Park was organized by a group that often attracts individuals connected to extremist groups and militias. That day’s demonstration was planned against a judge who granted full custody to a Texas mother advocating for her child’s transgender identity.

Shortly after he arrived at the park, a protest organizer recognized Monacelli and singled him out by name. The organizer claimed Monacelli, who had his press credentials in his pocket, was an “antifa journalist.” Monacelli told the Tracker another individual called him an antisemitic slur.

“They wanted to make me feel unwelcome and in fact, explicitly said so,” Monacelli said.

After deciding the event was unsafe, Monacelli started walking away but noticed a woman following him. In a video he posted on Twitter, Monacelli asks the woman to stop following him when a man comes by and shoves him. Monacelli told the Tracker he recognized the man from a September protest in Plano.

“He walked up to me and very quickly got in my face and started threatening me, claiming I had doxxed him,” he said. “I told him not to touch me, but he shoved me again and continued to threaten me.”

Monacelli said officers from the University Park Police Department who were nearby intervened and escorted the individual away.

University Park Police Chief Bill Mathes told the Tracker the individual had been cited for assault and the case was referred to the municipal court for disposition.

Monacelli said he later received a call from a detective investigating the case. But the assault made it impossible to continue reporting that day.

“Within five minutes of arriving, I had been singled out, called an antisemitic slur and assaulted,” Monacelli said. “Unfortunately, the story ended up being that I got assaulted and not anything about the protest itself.”

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