U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist hit with crowd-control round during DC protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 30, 2020

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
August 30, 2020

Independent journalist Wyatt Reed was struck in the shoulder with a crowd-control munition while covering a protest in Washington, D.C., early on the morning of Aug. 30, 2020.

Regular protests over racial justice held in Washington and across the country since the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis were amplified by anger over the Aug. 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In addition, thousands had gathered in the nation’s capital on Aug. 28 for the 57th anniversary of the civil rights era March on Washington.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting arrests, assaults and other obstructions to journalists covering protests across the country.

Marchers on the evening of Aug. 29 converged on Black Lives Matter Plaza, just north of the White House, and protests continued into the morning of Aug. 30. According to DCist, after 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 30, about 100 protesters gathered at the intersection of 16th Street and K Street Northwest, where police began using crowd-control rounds to disperse the crowd after a rock was thrown at them.

Reed, who is also a producer for the radio show By Any Means Necessary on Russian state-owned Radio Sputnik, was filming a confrontation between police and protesters at that intersection when he was hit in the left shoulder with a crowd-control munition.

“DC cops just shot me in the shoulder with a huge rubber round as I filmed them dousing everyone in a 25 ft radius with chemical spray,” he tweeted at 2:08 a.m.

In a video he posted alongside the tweet, a police officer can be seen spraying a chemical irritant at protesters in a sweeping, indiscriminate fashion. Some of the spray appears to hit Reed. Then, the sounds of crowd-control rounds being fired can be heard.

“Fuck, I just got fucking shot, they just fucking shot me, oh fuck,” Reed can be heard saying in the video.

A person who appears to be acting as a street medic rushes over to Reed and can be seen ripping open his left sleeve before saying “you’re good” and “that’s going to be a good scar.”

Speaking to the Tracker, Reed described the projectile, which he picked up after, as a “rubber puck” that tore through his shirt as it hit his shoulder. When he was hit, he was standing near the front of the protest crowd, close to the line of police officers. He said he was wearing a press identification and believes he was targeted.

Right before he was hit with the crowd-control round, Reed said he was peripherally sprayed with the chemical agent that can be seen being deployed in the video. However the rubber puck left a more painful and lasting injury.

“It was bruised for a few good weeks,” Reed said. “It left a fairly gnarly little scar.”

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Earlier at the same protest — late on the evening of Aug. 29 — Reed was sprayed with a chemical irritant as police tried to clear protesters from H Street.

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