U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist choked, pushed in encounter with police officers while covering protest in Ohio

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 1, 2020
Cincinnati, Ohio


Was the journalist targeted?
June 1, 2020

Journalist Nick Swartsell said police officers grabbed and pulled him by the bandana around his neck as he reported on protests in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 1, 2020.

The protests were held in response to a video showing a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the U.S. since the end of May.

Police officers began to arrest protesters in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood shortly after the 8 p.m. curfew went into effect, said Swartsell, news editor for the weekly publication CityBeat Cincinnati. When Swartsell and another journalist, Pat Brennan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, walked around the right side of a police vehicle to observe an arrest taking place near the intersection of West McMicken Avenue and Mohawk Place, an officer told them to move to the other side of the vehicle, Swartsell said.

While complying with the orders, Swartsell said an officer suddenly yanked him by the back of the bandana tied around his neck, and pulled him backwards. The journalist was pulled so forcibly, he said, that he was choked by the bandana and felt like he couldn't breathe for several seconds. He was then pushed into a crowd of officers with shields who shoved him off to the side.

Swartsell told the Tracker that he momentarily glimpsed body armor but otherwise couldn’t see the officer who had pulled him. He also said that he was unaware of body camera footage that captured the incident.

The force of the assault left red marks around Swartsell’s neck for several hours but he told the Tracker that he was otherwise uninjured. He immediately resumed reporting on the arrests. The journalist is covering the protests pro bono for CityBeat while on furlough due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Enquirer’s Brennan was then forcibly detained by police, which the Tracker documented separately.

The Cincinnati Police Department did not return requests for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred 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 and Breonna Taylor. 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].