U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent videographer attacked at LA protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 23, 2024


Was the journalist targeted?

Independent videographers Sean Beckner-Carmitchel and Justin Jun, shown in circle added at center, were assaulted by multiple individuals while reporting on clashing protests outside a synagogue in Los Angeles, California, on June 23, 2024.

June 23, 2024

Independent videographer Sean Beckner-Carmitchel was surrounded and attacked by multiple individuals while documenting clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters in Los Angeles, California, on June 23, 2024. At least nine journalists were assaulted while covering the violence that day.

The conflict began after the Southern California chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement called for demonstrators to meet at noon outside the Adas Torah synagogue in the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood in west LA to protest the alleged sale of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Multiple journalists told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that scuffles, brawls and exchanges of pepper spray broke out in the streets nearby between the protesters and counterprotesters.

Individuals from both sides — including a rabbi and security volunteers from the Jewish community — attempted to intervene and prevent the violence from escalating. CNN reported that Los Angeles Police Department officers established a perimeter around the synagogue.

Beckner-Carmitchel told the Tracker that tensions were high from the start, and that while covering the clashing demonstrations for several hours he observed an “intense” amount of security, tit-for-tat assaults and lots of bear spray in use.

After police cleared the area surrounding the synagogue, Beckner-Carmitchel said, the pro-Palestinian demonstrators began to move back and the pro-Israeli protesters followed and chased them through the neighborhood. When the groups looped back to Adas Torah, he said it was like a switch flipped.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I know when things are about to turn from violent to even more violent, and I could feel it,” he told the Tracker. “That was the moment where I was like, ‘Oh boy, I need to start figuring out a way to get out of here because this is not good.’”

Beckner-Carmitchel said journalists were being deliberately targeted, so when he saw a large group following independent journalist Kate Burns and another photojournalist, he approached them to film in case something happened and to plead with the crowd. That’s when he became the target of the crowd’s aggression.

At 0:28 in footage captured from a helicopter by KCAL-TV photojournalist John Schreiber, a man can be seen kicking the phone from Beckner-Carmitchel’s hand. The phone was caught by videographer Justin Jun, but when Jun attempted to return it the pair of journalists were swarmed by individuals Beckner-Carmitchel identified as pro-Israeli demonstrators.

“The crowd surrounded us, so I grabbed him (Jun) really close and gave him a bear hug to try to make sure that nobody can get us down on the ground and to protect my face and stomach and to protect my gear,” Beckner-Carmitchel told the Tracker.

Schreiber’s footage shows two men pulling Jun back while a third attempts to kick his video camera. As Beckner-Carmitchel holds onto Jun, the third man grabs onto his shoulder and punches him twice in the back of the head.

Independent photojournalist Nick Stern steps in to attempt to stop the attack, but as the journalists move away from the crowd one of the men nearly rips the shirt off Beckner-Carmitchel’s back and another kicks the videographer in the groin.

Beckner-Carmitchel told the Tracker that he went up to the police line and was eventually allowed through to file a police report. He said that he had a large bump on his head and that, while there were some light scratches on one of the phone’s camera lenses, it was otherwise undamaged.

The LAPD said in a news release that officers were investigating two reports of battery at the protest and that one individual had been arrested for having a spiked post. Beckner-Carmitchel said he believes his report is one of those cited. A spokesperson for the department told the Tracker via email June 27 that they have no further information.

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