Journalist hit with police baton, lens damaged while covering Echo Park Lake protest
Independent journalist Tina-Desiree Berg was shoved by a police officer while reporting on a protest near Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles, California on March 24, 2021, Berg told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
Protesters gathered near Echo Park Lake to demonstrate against the city’s plan to clear a homeless encampment, blocking Los Angeles Police Department officers from the park, LAist reported.
In the evening protesters were trying to block police from putting up a barrier around the park, Berg told the Tracker.
Berg, who reports for Status Coup, which describes itself as a progressive, independent news outlet, said she was one of about a half dozen journalists between a line of police officers and protesters. She said she asked if she could move through to the other side of the police line, but an officer refused, telling her, “you’ve made your choice.”
Berg, who was filming using a video camera with a light attachment, said that police were objecting to journalists’ use of camera lights, saying that they were trying to blind the officers.
In a video published by Status Coup on YouTube, officers multiple times ask people, including Berg, to turn off their camera lights. Berg can be heard refusing, at times confrontationally.
In one clip multiple people with cameras can be seen near an officer, who says, “Turn off that light please.”
“I’m not turning off my light, dude, it is necessary for my job,” Berg can be heard saying.
In another clip, an officer can be heard saying “Leave the area, ma’am.”
The video then shows the top of another officer’s helmet, abruptly shakes, and Berg can be heard saying “no!”
Berg told the Tracker that’s when an officer hit her camera lens with a baton, then jabbed her in the abdomen with the baton.
Berg told the Tracker she was wearing a Kevlar vest and was not hurt by the baton. The blow to her camera lens cracked the outer casing of the lens, she said. The interior of the lens was not damaged and it is still usable, she said, though she has not gotten the casing repaired.
Berg said she was wearing multiple press credentials on a lanyard around her neck, including one issued by the Los Angeles Press Club and another that identified her as a journalist for Status Coup.
LAPD spokesperson Raul Jovel said the department opened an investigation into the incident after the Tracker reached out to the department for comment.
At a protest in Echo Lake Park the following day, March 25, at least 20 journalists were arrested, detained or assaulted. Find all documented press freedom violations from the Echo Park Lake protests here.