Journalist hit by crowd-control grenade while covering Seattle protest

June 6, 2020

Cole Miller, a journalist for local station KOMO TV, was injured by debris from a crowd control munition while reporting from a protest on June 6, 2020, in Seattle, Washington.

Protesters were gathered that day in Capitol Hill, a Seattle neighborhood which had already seen several days of protests, and which would later be the site of a weeks-long occupation protest known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

Miller told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he was reporting that evening at the southeast corner of Cal Anderson Park, at 11th and Pine Street, when Seattle police officers began attempting to disperse the crowd. Miller said the police had assembled in front of their precinct office on Pine Street, across from the park, and the police line and protest line had confronted each other, with the police trying to push the protesters out of the area.

A video Miller posted to Twitter, shot while he was standing in the midst of a group of protesters, shows there were multiple loud bangs and flashes of light, accompanied by clouds of gas. Multiple news reports from that day confirm that police were using blast balls, a type of crowd-control grenade similar to a flash-bang grenade which sets off noise and bright light, and can disperse rubber shrapnel when detonated.

Miller said that the situation became “quite chaotic” with protesters running into each other, and “pieces of shrapnel from the blast exploding in all directions.”

Miller said that debris from one of the crowd control munitions hit him in the leg “with quite a bit of force,” which later resulted in a large blister. He also said that he inhaled some of the gas used to break up the protest, which he was not able to identify. Miller told the Tracker that police continued to push the crowd back toward Broadway, using more gas. According to Miller and a news report from the Seattle Times, the protesters eventually pushed back on the line of police and ended up back near 11th and Pine.

Later that day, Miller posted photos of rubber debris from the blast balls, which he found on the scene.

Seattle Police Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

One day prior to these incidents, the Seattle Police Department had announced a minimum 30-day ban on the use of tear gas, and said that other policies on measures such as pepper spray would be subject to review.

The Seattle protests were in response to the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, during a May 25 arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which sparked demonstrations across the country. 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 these protests. 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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