Independent journalist hit with projectile, shield while covering D.C. protests
Journalist Jenn Dize said law enforcement officers shot her with a projectile and pushed her to the ground twice, causing her to lose her grip on her equipment, while covering protests for progressive independent outlet Status Coup in Washington, D.C., on May 30, 2020.
Protests that began in Minnesota on May 26 have spread across the country, sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest the day before. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Dize, the co-founder of Status Coup, was livestreaming the protests near Lafayette Square park on YouTube, when someone lobbed an object at police. The livestream shows police firing at the crowd. Dize was shot in the right arm by a projectile; she believes it may have been a pepper ball, she told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. The projectile left her arm bruised with a red, raised welt. Dize, who was standing outside a crowd at the time, was wearing Status Coup press credentials and was carrying a monopod and microphone. "They had to have been aiming at me," she told the Tracker.
Based on the design of officers’ shields in the livestream, they appear to be with the United States Park Police. Park Police spokesman Sergeant Eduardo Delgado told the Tracker via email that this was the first he had heard of this incident; he did not provide comment on Dize’s claims.
Dize continued reporting. A few hours later, she said she was livestreaming a burning vehicle and interviewing onlookers when someone lobbed a firecracker at the feet of police. Dize started to leave, but stopped to help a protester who had fallen down.
Law enforcement officers advanced toward the crowd, and Dize said one of them knocked her down with his riot shield. Her monopod, phone, and microphone slipped from her fingers. She could see her phone a short distance away on the sidewalk.
“I didn’t want to make any sudden moves, so I asked the officers ‘Can I bend down and pick up my phone?’” she told the Tracker.
The officer who had initially knocked her down reacted by ramming her multiple times in the upper body with his shield, knocking her onto her right hip, she said.
"I will never forget the look on the cop's face who was attacking me," she said. “He did not care.”
Protesters intervened, grabbing her underneath her arms and helping her reach safety. “My hip is quite sore still, and all my equipment is lost,” she said. Her phone, which she could not locate, continued to livestream for 90 additional minutes. Status Coup edited a short video on YouTube including footage from Dize’s perspective as she was knocked down the first time.
The Tracker shared a screenshot from the video with Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia spokesperson Alaina Gertz, who confirmed that the officers depicted were part of its force. Gertz did not respond to a request for comment about Dize’s claims.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred total incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country related to the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Find all of these cases here.
This article has been updated to reflect that Dize was hit in the right arm with a projectile, not the left arm as originally reported.