Journalist assaulted while covering D.C. protests

June 22, 2020

A reporter for the Daily Caller was attacked by several people who accused her of being an undercover police officer as she covered protests against police violence in Washington, D.C., on June 22, 2020.

Shelby Talcott told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she had been using her smartphone to film protests that night. At around midnight, she said, she was standing behind a line of protesters near Lafayette Square who were facing off with a line of police officers holding riot shields. Several individuals taking part in the demonstrations then approached her and accused her of working undercover for the police.

Talcott said that while covering protests she had taken to dressing “low key” and without clear identification as a journalist to avoid being targeted by people who “don’t want certain things getting out.”

Talcott said she showed the individuals her Twitter bio and feed, and displayed a business card, to prove that she was a working member of the press.

At that point, she said, one or two of the people appeared convinced that she was telling the truth about being a reporter and told others to back away. Some, though, began to shove her around, she said.

Then, she told the Tracker, a woman unsuccessfully tried to punch her, and a nearby police officer intervened and grabbed the assailant.

“That’s when they really doubled down and called me a cop,” Talcott said.

After the missed punch, Talcott said, a different woman tried to grab her smartphone from her hands. She said a colleague from the Daily Caller who was also at the scene pried the woman’s fingers off Talcott’s phone.

Talcott said she was eventually shoved into the police line, and officers pulled her through to the other side. The altercation lasted five or 10 minutes, she said.

Once across the police line, an officer placed her in handcuffs, walked her to an area about two blocks away where there were no protesters, and released her within five minutes, Talcott said. The Tracker documented the details of that detainment here.

Talcott said she and her colleagues have covered protests in several U.S. cities. People threatened them while they attempted to cover acts of violence and property damage, and demanded they stop filming.

Talcott also said that individuals have Tweeted warnings to protesters to not speak with her, citing her employer, the Daily Caller, which is a right-leaning outlet co-founded by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

“When they find out where you work is deemed a conservative publication, that amplifies that,” she said.

Protests against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Movement have been held across the country after a viral video showed a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

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

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