U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist says public official shoved him after town meeting

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 26, 2023
Vestal, New York


Was the journalist targeted?
June 26, 2023

Independent journalist John Solak contends he was shoved by the town supervisor for Vestal, New York, on June 26, 2023, while attempting to interview a town board member about his arrest, Solak told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Solak, who posts regularly using the handle @BinghamtonDaily on X, formerly known as Twitter, said that after a town board meeting at the town hall, he followed Councilman Stephen Donnelly out of the meeting room to where Donnelly exited the building. In a video Solak shot of the encounter on an iPad, a man he identifies as Town Supervisor John Schaffer shouts, “Hey, get out of here!” Schaffer then positions himself between Solak and the exit, telling him that the exit is “not for you.”

Solak told the Tracker, “He made contact with a body move on me and the iPad, which I used as a shield, causing me to lose balance.” He added that he would characterize Schaffer’s actions as a physical assault, but did not file a complaint.

In the video, Schaffer then instructs a woman standing nearby, identified later by Solak as Councilwoman Patty Fitzgerald, to call the police. Solak leaves the town hall building through a different exit, before the police arrive.

Solak, who told the Tracker he has been attending local government meetings for about 50 years, said that he went to the emergency room later that day because, “as a heart [disease] patient, … the event caused more than a little stress.”

Schaffer subsequently filed an incident report with the Vestal Police Department in which he reported that “when he was attempting to prevent John Solak from speaking with [Donnelly], he was struck by Solak’s arm and in the chest.” Schaffer declined to prosecute. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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