Vishal Singh, a videographer who works on Netflix documentaries and has been covering demonstrations in Los Angeles, said police officers struck him more than two dozen times with batons while he was covering a protest in the city on March 8, 2021.
Singh told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that the protest, organized by the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, had ended in downtown LA by the time officers descended on the crowd. The protest was one in a surge of demonstrations against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement that have been held since May 2020. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.
“Protesters had started to disperse when LAPD popped up out of nowhere and just started blocking off the street, so tensions started rising between activists and police,” Singh said. “All of a sudden [the police] got very aggressive very fast.”
Singh said he was standing next to the mother of a man shot and killed by police when officers started getting into their “pushing position” ahead of rushing the crowd. Officers then brought out their batons and began shoving the crowd back and hitting the demonstrators.
“I didn’t really move because I had what I thought was a pretty important angle of a double frame: on the left side you see the police and on the right side you see the protesters being hit with batons,” Singh said. “In the process of that filming I was batoned in the stomach and chest area about 30 or more times. I was hit so consistently and so hard that one journalist pointed out to me that my press badge had actually been beaten off of me.”
Singh said that while he was wearing a press badge, he wasn’t wearing his ballistic vest labeled with “PRESS” because he had thought the protest would be low-risk. He had extra copies of his press badge, Singh said, and was able to put a new one on his lanyard.
“My stomach, ribs, and wrist are bruised and coughing now hurts my stomach,” Singh told the Tracker via email a few hours after the incident.
The Los Angeles Police Department didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.