Individuals in crowd accost newspaper reporter covering protests in Tucson

May 29, 2020

While covering protests in Tucson on the evening of May 29, 2020, Caitlin Schmidt, a sports reporter with the Arizona Daily Star, was accosted by individuals in the crowd who hit her arm and threw her phone.

The protests were sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds during an arrest on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Schmidt arrived outside the police station in downtown Tucson at 10 p.m. to document the protest, attended by several hundred people.

She began filming the scene on her phone to send to her editor to post on social media, when three members of the crowd wearing medical masks approached her and began yelling at her, Schmidt told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

One shouted at her, “When you put our faces on TV, it gets us killed,” according to Schmidt’s recounting. She responded, “I'm not putting you on TV, I’m just doing my job,” and continued to film.

Another one hit her arm very hard, causing her phone to slip out of her grasp. The first person, who had been yelling, scooped up Schmidt’s phone and threw it some 20 feet away, nearly hitting someone. The phone was not damaged, and a coworker was able to retrieve it for her.

“The next day I had a pretty large bruise on my arm,” she said, as well as some “fairly significant swelling.”

Schmidt was wearing press credentials around her neck, which caught the eye of the individuals who accosted her. They took photos of it and threatened to find her later. “If you use our faces, we’re going to come find you,” Schmidt recounted one said.

She was standing within six feet of the police line at the time, as well as close to some TV cameramen from another outlet, and the incident was caught on the TV camera's live stream, she said. Schmidt said she did not “move or react” until the three left her alone.

An hour later, one of the same people found Schmidt in the crowd again and began yelling at her. That encounter was captured by freelance photojournalist Eric Rosenwald, who posted it on Facebook. "Announce your privilege! Announce your privilege! You won't, because you're part of the problem, and that's why you got your shit tossed," the person yelled. Schmidt again remained silent until the person walked away.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred total incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country related to the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Find all of these cases here.

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

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