Independent journalist Janet Burns said she was shoved by a police officer while covering a protest in New York City on July 25, 2020.
Burns said she was covering a demonstration that night in Lower Manhattan, at the corner of Delancey and Ludlow streets, for NYC Protest Updates 2020, a Twitter account set up by a group of young journalists after the May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests. The Twitter account has over 40,000 followers and provides regular coverage of protests and police activity in New York City.
“I was sending in pictures and describing what was happening,” Burns told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, while an editor for the account sent out the actual tweets that night.
According to Burns, clashes between demonstrators and officers had erupted throughout the night, and officers were blocking streets to contain the crowd. Burns said she saw several people tackled and arrested. “I could see that the police had some people among them, at least one of them was still on the ground,” she told the Tracker. Burns said that when she tried to get a better view of protesters held behind the police line, officers blocked her path.
“They didn’t want me to walk in their direction which was the edge of a kettle” she explained, referring to the term describing a common police tactic to surround and arrest protesters during public demonstrations. One of the officers told her that she could not move forward, so she waited a few seconds and asked another officer, who agreed to let her go. “I began walking that way but the [first] officer saw and became angry,” she said.
Burns said the first officer blocked her way, pushing his chest against her to knock her over. “He didn’t use his hands, he used his chest,” she said. Burns said she was not hurt and none of her equipment was damaged. “The guy was just being angry,” she said, referring to the officer who had pushed her.
Burns said she was wearing a press badge from the Freelance Journalists Union and another ID “that says that I’m a professional journalist.”
The New York Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.