U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent reporter arrested while covering Louisville protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 23, 2020

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Unnecessary use of force?
November 24, 2020 - Update

Charges dropped for reporter arrested while covering Louisville protest

The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department has dropped charges against reporter Ian Kennedy, who was arrested for unlawful assembly and failure to disperse while covering a September 2020 protest in Kentucky’s capital city.

Kennedy told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that the charges were dismissed on Nov. 24, 2020, with a stipulation of cause, meaning he cannot sue over the charges.

A hearing for Kennedy’s case was scheduled for the same day, but the charges were dismissed before the hearing, he told the Tracker.

September 23, 2020

Social media reporter Ian Kennedy was arrested while covering a protest against police violence in Louisville, Kentucky, on Sept. 23, 2020.

Racial-justice demonstrations, which had been occurring daily in Louisville for months, were reinvigorated when a grand jury decided not to bring charges against police officers for the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, in her home on March 13, 2020.

Kennedy, who reports for his independent media outlet Concrete Reporting, streams unedited video footage of protests live to social media.

Kennedy told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he was following a large group of protesters who continued to demonstrate in downtown Louisville after a 9 p.m. curfew went into effect. Near midnight, city police officers used a crowd-control technique called kettling, in which police block protesters from leaving the area.

Video Kennedy posted of the protest on Periscope shows police lines blocking both directions of a wide city street, firing pepper balls toward the ground and ordering protesters to sit down. As police moved in toward the group of protesters Kennedy had been following, he crossed the street to stand on the opposite sidewalk, where he and others were also ordered to sit on the ground.

He said he identified himself to police as a reporter multiple times. On his video, he can be heard telling one officer that he had just arrived from Seattle to cover the protest for his work. “I’m not a protester, I’m just doing my job. I’m press,” he tells the officer.

A short time later, another officer searches through his backpack and pulls out a copy of Kennedy’s press pass, which Kennedy said includes his name, Concrete Reporting, and a QR code that links to the website.

“Yeah, that’s fake,” the officer says.

Kennedy told the Tracker he was held in jail for 18 hours after he was arrested. Court documents show he was charged with failure to disperse and unlawful assembly. A hearing in his case is scheduled for Nov. 24.

The Louisville Metro Police Department didn’t respond to requests for comment about Kennedy’s arrest.

Two Daily Caller reporters, Jorge Ventura and Shelby Talcott, were arrested covering the same protest in Louisville on Sept. 23.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering these protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

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