Journalist assaulted twice during anti-vaccine rally in LA

August 14, 2021

Independent journalist Tina-Desiree Berg was assaulted while covering an anti-vaccine protest outside LA’s City Hall for the online outlet Status Coup on Aug. 14, 2021.

Demonstrators had gathered for a rally advertised as a “stop socialism, choose freedom march against medical tyranny” to protest COVID-19 vaccination requirements and mask mandates, LAist reported. Demonstrators carried signs from a cross-section of movements, including pro-Trump banners, signs calling for the recall of California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other signs and banners. While the demonstration on the south lawn of the City Hall grounds remained peaceful, according to LAist, some fights broke out on the edges of the rally.

Berg told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she arrived approximately 45 minutes before the violence began and was standing across from the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters with a few other journalists. In footage Berg posted shortly after 2:30 p.m., a group of men can be seen gathering in a line as multiple people call out “Fuck antifa!”

At 0:22 in the clip, a man can be seen running up to Berg, pulling down his mask and saying “Hey bitch” before appearing to strike out at Berg and her camera; Berg said the man punched her and struck her camera. Another demonstrator intervenes and pulls the man away as Berg makes her way back to the sidewalk.

A few moments later, as a brawl appears to break out between the anti-vaccine demonstrators and counterprotesters, a second man runs up to Berg and attempts to pull the mask off her face while shouting, “Unmask them! Unmask them all!”

A photo of the incident shows the man pulling down Berg’s goggles and face mask; Berg’s press credentials can be seen on a lanyard around her neck.

Berg told Democracy Now that she will not let the increasing violence, especially incidents targeting the press, prevent her from covering protests across California.

“People need to see what’s going on and if I let [the Proud Boys] control what I do then they sort of win the conversation,” Berg said. “They don’t want the press, they don’t want people filming them, they don’t want to be exposed for their violent actions. And so the intention of what they’re doing is to try to silence me and other journalists like me from covering what they’re doing and I absolutely am not deterred from doing it. I will be much more aware, take more security precautions.”

Berg told the Tracker she has not filed a police report about the incident, but plans to speak with the special investigations unit about it and the assault she witnessed of videographer Rocky Romano on July 3.

This article has been updated to include comment from the journalist.

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

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