Independent journalist Jake Lee Green was shot with a crowd-control munition while documenting the clash of protesters and counterprotesters at a National Straight Pride Coalition event in Modesto, California, on Aug. 27, 2022.
Green told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he was on assignment for News2Share, a collective that sells footage to news outlets, to document the fourth annual “straight pride” parade outside of a Planned Parenthood. Though the event didn’t take place — because LGBTQ rights activists arrived before them to stop it — the demonstrators and counterprotesters began to clash, with some brawling in the street.
The Modesto Police Department told The Modesto Bee it declared the event an “unlawful gathering” after a bush caught fire. MPD officers and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies formed a line pushing the counterprotesters back, according to the Bee.
Green said he and other colleagues asked police officers where to be, and they were told they had to “go with the crowd.”
“We kept constantly trying to let them know that we were press and even when we tried to cross the street to get out of the crowd so we could differentiate ourselves from them, the police ended up taking over the entire street and pushing the entire street out and away,” Green said.
Green told the Tracker he had been photographing a group of young activists at the police line who were being struck with batons and shot with pepper balls during the forced dispersal at around 11:15 a.m. According to Green, that’s when an MPD officer shot him with a pepper ball munition.
“I was focused on that group of people because I saw that [the officer] was shooting at them, I wasn’t actually necessarily paying attention to him although he was in the frame,” Green said. “And while I was focused on them he must have turned to me and shot toward my left pretty indiscriminately.”
Green told the Tracker he was carrying a professional camera and had attached his press credentials to his hat so that they could be easily seen. He said that the officer wasn’t being careful enough to notice that he was a member of the press or did notice and decided to fire at him anyway.
When things calmed down shortly after, Green checked his wound. “I thought, ‘OK, I’m bleeding a little bit but not too bad,’ and I continued to do my work throughout the day.”
MPD did not respond to a call requesting comment.