U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent videographer punched while covering anti-vaccine protest in LA

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 29, 2021

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
September 30, 2021 - Update

Independent videographer charged with assault in connection with anti-vaccine protest where he was punched

Independent videographer Vishal Singh was arrested and charged with battery on Sept. 30, 2021, in connection with his assault during an anti-vaccine protest in Los Angeles in July.

Singh was punched multiple times while documenting protests at the West Hollywood restaurant Harlowe on July 29. During the altercation, Singh said he attempted to defend himself and ultimately used pepper spray to fend off his assailants. Singh was briefly knocked unconscious and suffered multiple breaks to his eye sockets and nose.

Singh posted on Twitter that he had filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and officers notified him that they had identified a suspect. He was called into the West Hollywood station to engage in a photo line-up to identify his assailant on Sept. 30.

Singh told freelance journalist Sean Beckner-Carmitchel in an interview that half-way through the line up, a deputy came into the room and placed him under arrest. He was held in custody for approximately 4 hours and ultimately charged with two counts of assault and battery, one of which was connected to the incident at Harlowe.

“I’m not getting into fights, I have been significantly and consistently targeted by right-wing demonstrators for well over a year,” Singh told Beckner-Carmitchel. “Their continual assaults against me have put me in a situation where I do have to defend myself.”

July 29, 2021

Vishal Singh, a videographer who works on Netflix documentaries and has been covering demonstrations in Los Angeles since May 2020, said he was punched multiple times while documenting protests at a restaurant in Los Angeles, California, on July 29, 2021.

Local digital outlet WeHoTimes reported that the West Hollywood restaurant Harlowe had become a target of anti-vaccine protests because of its policy requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter the premises. Similar stipulations have been put in place across the country in order to curb the spread of coronavirus variations, particularly amid unvaccinated populations.

Singh told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he arrived to document the protest at approximately 7 p.m., having reported on violence that broke out at the restaurant the night before. By the time he began filming from across the street, a scuffle had broken out between the protesters and another individual and the crowd began following the man down the street.

As the crowd turned down an alley, Singh said they directed their attention on him; in footage of the incident a man can be seen positioning himself behind Singh, bumping the videographer with his shoulder and then punching Singh multiple times as Singh defends himself. In the footage, Singh’s press badge can be seen on a lanyard around his neck.

Singh said a second individual then ripped the mask off his face and the man again punched him, knocking him to the ground. Singh told the Tracker he continued defending himself and used pepper spray to disperse the crowd until he was eventually able to leave the area.

“I felt that if I turned around they would chase me and beat me more, so I really didn’t have a choice but to stand my ground and defend myself,” Singh said.

Singh said he immediately went to a hospital, where he was told he suffered multiple breaks to his eye sockets and nose as a result of the attack.

Singh told the Tracker the day after the incident that he hadn’t yet 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]