U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent photojournalist shoved off railing during Capitol riot

Incident Details

Date of Incident
January 6, 2021


Was the journalist targeted?
January 6, 2021

Independent photographer Nate Gowdy was threatened and shoved off a railing 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.

Gowdy told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he was photographing the scene as rioters stormed up the Capitol steps and began to breach the building.

"Everything happened so fast. They converged and then started tearing down barricades," Gowdy said. "I got on a balustrade at the base of the stairs and then a man pointed at me and threatened me. I can't even remember what he said but he just shoved me off the balustrade."

Gowdy said he wasn't wearing protective gear at the time, but was able to land on his feet.

Gowdy's photograph of this moment shows the man with an American flag hat, sunglasses and mask, pointing intensely at the camera.

A Rolling Stone slideshow with Gowdy’s images said the photographer has documented close to 30 official Trump rallies since 2016.

“I’m still processing what I witnessed yesterday. We all are. It’s difficult to know what people are thinking when they’re breaching security barriers, attacking law enforcement, threatening members of the media, flaunting pandemic safety protocols, and bashing down the doors and windows to Congress,” Gowdy wrote in the slideshow’s introduction.

Throughout the day, he said he was repeatedly threatened and heckled for taking photos and wearing a mask.

"You have to be careful what you take photos of," he said.

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].