U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent journalist pushed, hit by NYPD while covering protest in Bronx

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 4, 2020
Location
New York, New York

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Unknown

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Status of Charges
Not charged
Arresting Authority
New York Police Department
Detention Date
Release Date
Unnecessary use of force?
No
Equipment Seized
Status of Seized Equipment
Returned in full
Search Warrant Obtained
No
Actor who seized equipment
Law enforcement
Courtesy Ashoka Jegroo via Twitter

Journalist Ashoka Jegroo was documenting a protest in the New York borough of the Bronx when he was shoved and hit with an NYPD officer's baton.

— Courtesy Ashoka Jegroo via Twitter
June 4, 2020

Independent journalist Ashoka Jegroo was pushed and hit with a baton by a police officer while covering a racial justice protest in the Bronx borough of New York on June 4, 2020.

The protest, in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the Bronx, was one of many demonstrations organized across the city in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others in 2020. Jegroo regularly reports and films video footage of protests, which he sells to media outlets.

In a phone interview, Jegroo told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he was at the front of the demonstration, near some of the organizers, as they began marching through the neighborhood on the evening of June 4. A few minutes before a citywide 8 p.m. curfew went into effect, said Jegroo, city police officers moved to break up the protest using a crowd control tactic called kettling, in which police block demonstrators from leaving. As police advanced on the crowd, Jegroo and organizers at the front of the march were separated from the “kettle” and pushed across the street by police, the journalist said.

Jegroo said that police appeared to target an organizer near him who was using a megaphone to communicate to the larger group.

In a video Jegroo posted on Twitter, a line of NYPD officers is seen standing on the street. An NYPD officer in a yellow helmet approaches another officer and points into the crowd. “You want her locked up?” the second officer asks. “OK.”

The second officer then moves swiftly, striking at protestors and swiping toward Jegroo. “Get the fuck back, I’m not fucking with you, get the fuck back,” the officer says.

Jegroo said that the police officer struck him with a baton on his abdomen between his belly button and his groin. Jegroo said he then ran away from the line of police, following two protest organizers as they sought to see what was happening to the larger group of demonstrators cordoned off by police. When they encountered more police, officers grabbed the organizers, Jegroo said, then threw him against a fence, where he slid down to the ground.

Jegroo said that as he attempted to get up, a police officer pulled him up, turned him around and pinned him against a gate, holding one of the journalist’s arms behind his back. A second officer questioned Jegroo, asking why he was there and where he lived, while another officer rifled through his backpack, Jegroo said. After searching through his bag, the police freed Jegroo. He said he collected his belongings, which the police had dropped on the ground. He reported that none of his reporting equipment was damaged.

Jegroo said he did not identify himself to police as a journalist at any point during the protest. He said that in past encounters with police, he had found that identifying himself as a reporter did not help. “I've tried to do that before, but … they don't give a damn,” he said.

NYPD did not respond to a request for comment about Jegroo’s experience.

The march was the fourth organized by a coalition of grassroots groups under the name FTP4, initials that various group members say can stand for “For the People,” “Feed the People,” or “Fuck the Police.” Police tactics during the Mott Haven march came under criticism in a report released in September by Human Rights Watch. The group said that police conduct during the FTP4 march was “intentional, planned, and unjustified,” and that NYPD’s response violated international human rights law.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering these protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

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