U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist assaulted at LA protest, has camera damaged and iPhone stolen

Incident Details


Investigative journalist Kate Burns, right, is shown working at a protest in Los Angeles on June 23, 2024. Burns was threatened and assaulted, and had her phone stolen and camera damaged during clashes between protesters and counterprotesters.

June 23, 2024

Investigative journalist Kate Burns was beaten and had gear damaged and stolen 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.

Burns, who was posting live updates from the protest to social platform X for the investigative journalism outlet Left Coast Right Watch, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was clearly identified as a journalist with a press pass on a lanyard and a camera around her neck.

Burns said that several times she was surrounded by people at the protest who shouted misogynistic expletives and threats. Pro-Israeli protesters called her a terrorist and threatened to rape, behead and burn her at the stake, she recounted.

They also said they wished she had died of cancer, added Burns, a cancer survivor who wears a face mask because she is immunocompromised.

When, near the end of the protest, Burns went to the aid of a journalist who was being assaulted, an individual stole her iPhone and ran off. Another person at the protest snatched her hat and mask and tripped her, she told the Tracker.

She chased after her phone and when the thief saw the police officers he threw it on the ground, she said. As she reached to get it, others at the protest stepped on the phone to block her.

While she was down, a person at the protest kicked her on the back. Burns said she had scrapes on her hands from the pavement.

She said she picked up her phone, hat and mask and ran to the police, but they didn’t respond to her pleas to intervene.

Burns told the Tracker that she retreated into a doorway, but five people at the protest surrounded her. They kicked stones at her, yelled hateful words and taunted her about being a journalist.

Police officers then grabbed Burns and moved her to the other side of the police line into safety, she said.

A news crew from local station KTLA-TV then intervened to encourage police to take a report of the crimes against Burns. She was later able to file a police report.

The LAPD said in a news release that officers were investigating two reports of battery at the protest, one of which was Burns’, and that one individual had been arrested for having a spiked post. A spokesperson for the department told the Tracker via email June 27 that they have no further information.

Burns said that her camera, a Canon EOS 600D, was damaged in the scuffles and its case was dinged but still functional. Her phone was undamaged.

Burns told the Tracker that her editor has taken her off on-the-ground reporting until her safety can be assured.

“To be perfectly honest, I’m rethinking my life choices,” Burns said. “We thought we were going to get killed.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include additional details about the incident provided by Burns to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

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