U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent journalist says she was deliberately sprayed with chemical irritant by police during Seattle protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
October 3, 2020
Seattle, Washington


Was the journalist targeted?
October 3, 2020

Independent videographer Melissa Lewis said she was hit with a chemical irritant sprayed by a police officer while covering a Seattle protest on Oct. 3, 2020.

The Portland-based journalist was covering one of the many protests held in Seattle since late May in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the May 25 death of George Floyd. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

The Oct. 3 protest began at night around 7 p.m. in Cal Anderson Park, in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Demonstrators marched on Broadway, with some protesters vandalizing buildings with graffiti. In response, Seattle Police officers used pepper spray and arrested 16 people, according to the Seattle Times.

Lewis told the Tracker the incident occurred after the protesters returned to Cal Anderson Park. “We were told repeatedly as press that we had to disperse, that we had no right to be there and no right to film, which is bananas, and despite how many times we IDed as press and showed credentials,” she said.

Lewis told the Tracker she believes they were deliberately targeted by the officer. “I got mace on my camera and on my gimbal,” she said. “I was able to wash it off. But I don’t love getting mace on my equipment.”

The Seattle Police Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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