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 anti-Semitic 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 anti-Semitic slur and assaulted,” Monacelli said. “Unfortunately, the story ended up being that I got assaulted and not anything about the protest itself.”