Independent journalist’s phone knocked from hands during ‘We Are Israel’ rally

July 25, 2021

Independent journalist Tina-Desiree Berg’s phone was deliberately knocked out of her hands while she was documenting clashing demonstrations in El Cajon, California, on July 25, 2021.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported far-right demonstrators had gathered in the San Diego suburb to attend the “We Are Israel” rally at which former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder were scheduled to speak. Berg told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker she began reporting that day around 2:30 p.m. at a nearby park where counterprotesters were gathering ahead of a planned march to the rally.

Berg said that around 4 p.m. the marchers had made it to approximately a block away from the Prescott Promenade, where the rally was taking place, when they ran into a group of far-right demonstrators who were standing around some sort of a blockade on the street. Berg said she quickly ran up to begin filming the group and their interactions with the marchers.

“As I was standing there filming I decided to pull out my phone camera too to get back-up footage just because there was so much going on,” Berg said. “And I’m standing there and I’m concentrating just on filming so I didn’t see it coming but he came over and he blasted the phone out of my hand and I ran to go get it.”

At 2:08 in footage Berg posted to YouTube, an individual can be seen grabbing at independent videographer Vishal Singh’s press badge and then turning to taunt the crowd. At 0:33 in Singh’s footage of the incident, the same man can be seen deliberately knocking the phone out of Berg’s hands before seconds later returning to where Singh is filming and deliberately knocking the phone from his hands as well.

Berg tweeted immediately following the incident that she was also caught in a cloud of bear spray, and in her footage she can be heard coughing and reacting to the spray and puts her camera down at 6:15 in the clip in order to receive treatment. She told the Tracker that her phone was not damaged by the fall, but she decided shortly after the incident to leave without making it to the rally.

“Me and two of the other press guys who were there — I’m not sure who, one of them was from the San Diego Union-Tribune — we never made it down to the event because it was not safe,” Berg told the Tracker.

Berg said in addition to her video camera she was also wearing a press badge around her neck and a flak jacket labeled with “PRESS.” She said she hasn’t filed a police report about the incident.

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

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