U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent photographer chased, punched while covering Capitol riots

Incident Details

January 6, 2021

Independent White House correspondent Douglas Christian was harassed, pursued and punched by rioters while covering the insurrection in and around the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump spoke at noon at a rally in front of the White House in response to the Congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden, promoting false claims of election fraud and calling for his supporters to march to the Capitol, The New York Times reported. Following the rally, thousands of pro-Trump supporters waving Confederate and Trump flags violently stormed the Capitol, disrupting and occupying several areas within the building.

Christian told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was documenting the riots near the Russell Senate Office Building at around 4:45 p.m. when pro-Trump rioters assaulted him.

Christian said he had two government-issued press badges displayed around his neck and was taking photographs when "increasingly angry" protesters started to harass him, saying "Democrats should be tried for treason."

One of the demonstrators tried to grab his press pass, according to an article in the Maryland Reporter and confirmed by Christian.

As he tried to leave the area, another man began shouting obscenities after him. He said he ignored the man, but then was pursued.

Out of nowhere, the man punched him right in the face and his glasses went flying, Christian told the Tracker.

"My ear, which he didn't hit, was in terrible pain. I thought, did I just suffer a hemorrhage in my brain? I actually think I was doubled over in so much pain that he didn't punch me again."

As he was leaving the area, he said he saw a police officer nearby and recounted everything that had just happened, but the officer "wouldn't even acknowledge my presence."

Subsequently, a Capitol Hill staffer scolded him for approaching the officer. "You’re distracting the officer. He can’t do anything about the guy who is assaulting other people," Christian told the Reporter.

He later tried to contact Capitol Police about the incident, but has yet to hear a response. Christian said he also still has difficulty chewing and is requesting an X-ray for more information.

In a press release the next day, outgoing Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund called the attacks on Jan. 6 "criminal riotous behavior" and said the United States Capitol Police would be conducting a "thorough review of this incident."

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting multiple assaults, detainments and equipment damages from Jan. 6 events. Find those here.

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