Independent journalist Vishal Singh was repeatedly assaulted while reporting on a protest against the Los Angeles Unified School District on Aug. 22, 2023.
Singh, who uses they/he pronouns, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that demonstrators they characterized as anti-LGBTQ+ marched from City Hall to the district’s headquarters to call for greater limits on education about the LGBTQ+ community. The school board was holding its first meeting of the new school year that day, according to CBS News.
While following the march, Singh deliberately kept at a distance from the participants, staying about a block behind.
“As I was doing that, there were three separate incidents where I got kind of picked out and attacked, primarily by the same individual,” Singh said.
The first assault happened shortly after 11 a.m. In Singh’s footage, a demonstrator can be seen noticing Singh, then crossing the street to block their camera with a “Leave Our Kids Alone” T-shirt and telling them to “back the fuck up.” When a police vehicle beeps its siren, the man can be seen striking Singh and their cellphone with the shirt before turning and walking away.
An hour later on a freeway overpass near the school district headquarters, the same man approached Singh again, blocking them from filming and telling them to leave the area.
“You don’t think I know who the fuck you are?” the man says in Singh’s footage. “And you think your camera is going to save you? And the cops, you think that’s going to save you?”
The man then repeatedly shoves Singh to prevent them from walking toward the front of the march and in an attempt to knock the phone from their hands. Singh told the Tracker that 20 or 30 Los Angeles Police Department officers witnessed the attack and did nothing to intervene.
“At one point, [the assailant] actually shoved me and pushed me into the cops and the cops didn’t do anything,” Singh said.
Singh told the Tracker that the man continued to shove them back across the bridge and into a construction site, calling them a homophobic slur and nearly pushing them to the ground atop fallen nails.
“I basically just had to retreat,” Singh said. “I missed about an hour of the protest just trying to get to safety.”
They said they were eventually able to go around a different way to the front of the march to report from behind the police line.
Singh told the Tracker they called Adam Rose, the secretary of the LA Press Club and chair of the press rights committee, about the incident and filed a police report listing it as a hate crime. A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department told the Tracker via email that officers took a battery simple assault report and the investigation is still ongoing.
“I know what’s happening to me isn’t just happening to me, and it’s making the whole temperature here in LA a lot more dangerous for other journalists,” Singh said. “It hurts everybody every time one of us gets assaulted.”
Singh told the Tracker that they have largely stopped reporting on protests because of the targeted attacks.
“I can’t even do a story if every single time I’m going to get attacked and that becomes the story,” Singh said. “It’s a disservice to me and it’s a disservice to what I’m reporting on.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with comment received from the Los Angeles Police Department after publication.