U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist assaulted while covering protests in Birmingham

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 31, 2020
Birmingham, Alabama


Was the journalist targeted?
May 31, 2020

AL.com social media manager Madison Underwood was assaulted while covering protests against police violence in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 31, 2020, according to eye-witness reports and social media posts.

Protests against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the United States since the end of May. They were sparked by a video showing 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.

Underwood, who didn’t respond to emails requesting comment, was attacked while trying to protect broadcast reporter Stephen Quinn from a group of unidentified individuals.

The journalists were covering the protests and looting in the city’s downtown, near the site of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park. Two days later, the statue was removed by order of Mayor Randall Woodfin in response to the protests.

At around 10:45 p.m., an unidentified individual knocked the phone Quinn had been using to livestream out of his hand; other individuals stole his wallet, tripped him and attempted to hit him.

When Underwood attempted to help Quinn, he was knocked to the ground, kicked and punched repeatedly by several unidentified men who had surrounded the journalists. In a message posted to Twitter about the incident shortly after, Underwood said his nose was swollen and bleeding.

In a livestream video of the incident recorded by AL.com journalist Ivana Hrynkiw, the incidents are shown occurring over about three minutes. AL.com said in a tweet and a later article that its reporters, including Hrynkiw, who was heard on the livestream screaming as the attack occurred, left the scene after the attack and were OK.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.

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