U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist hit by rubber bullets while documenting protest near White House

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 30, 2020


Was the journalist targeted?
REUTERS/Eric Thayer

A Secret Service agent is seen behind a barricade as demonstrators rally near the White House in Washington, D.C. on May 30, 2020

— REUTERS/Eric Thayer
May 30, 2020

Sally Ayhan, a reporter for TRT World — a Turkish state-owned, English-language broadcaster — said she was struck in the chest and leg by rubber bullets fired by law-enforcement officers while she covered a protest near the White House on May 30, 2020.

Protests that began in Minneapolis on May 26 have spread across the country, sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest the day before. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

In a report for TRT, Ayhan said that as she and her cameraman walked through the streets of Washington, D.C., they saw cars, including a police car, smoldering and heard tear-gas canisters and firecrackers going off.

“The rest of the protesters came, saying that they were being chased by police with fire crackers and gas canisters and rubber pellets,” she said.

Ayhan, who didn’t respond to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s request for comment, added she didn’t see protesters struck by the projectiles, though she herself was hit several times. It wasn’t clear which law-enforcement agency’s officers fired the rounds.

She said in her report that she was first hit in the back of the leg. “Then as I turned around trying to figure out how the police were dealing with protesters, I was hit in the chest, which hurt incredibly for a few moments,” Ayhan added.

Ayhan tweeted that she was struck while reporting in front of the White House, and that it appeared to be a tactic police were using “to keep protestors from breaking through the barricades.”

Neither the Secret Service nor the D.C. Metro Police Department responded to emailed requests for comment.

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 related to the death of George Floyd. 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].