Independent journalist repeatedly pushed by a police officer while covering a rally in Georgia

August 15, 2020

Atlanta-based independent journalist Anissa Matlock was repeatedly pushed by a police officer while reporting during a rally in Stone Mountain, a city in the Atlanta suburbs, on Aug. 15, 2020.

Stone Mountain’s nine-story high depiction of Confederate leaders, carved into the mountain that gives the city its name, is considered a shrine for white supremacists. On Aug. 15 several far-right and white supremacist groups arrived in Stone Mountain to protest against a movement calling for removal of the monument.

Those groups were met by counterprotesters carrying signs in support of racial justice and Black Lives Matter. After a few hours officers in riot gear intervened to stop the altercations between members from the opposite groups.

According to Matlock, an officer who was part of a law enforcement line dispersing the crowd aggressively confronted her, pushing his riot shield against the front of her body, as she walked backwards.

“We were asked to disperse, to move back, so I started moving back but I had my camera on the police line in front of me,” Matlock told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. She said that the officer who confronted her took several strides ahead of the line in her direction. “He broke the line to get closer to me as I was moving back and then leaned the shield against my gas mask, my head and began to push forward,” she said.

Matlock video recorded the confrontation and tweeted it that night. The video shows Matlock, who was wearing her press credentials and a gas mask, being pushed back while complying with the officer’s order to move. “I have press credentials sir,” she can be heard saying as the officer forces her back, pressing his shield against her. “I’m moving, I’m complying,” she says.

Matlock, who posts her videos of Black Lives Matter protests on her social media channels, believes that she was targeted because she was pointing her camera on the officer’s face. “I feel that because I was zooming, he tried to get me out of the way,” she explained.

Matlock said she did not file a complaint about the incident. The Stone Mountain Police Department and the DeKalb County Police Department did not return requests for comment.

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

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