U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist shoved, phone briefly stolen during clashes at LA protest

Incident Details


Journalist Tina-Desiree Berg, center, in black, holds a cellphone behind her back, having retrieved it after an individual threw it across the road. She was covering clashing protests outside a synagogue in Los Angeles, California, on June 23, 2024.

June 23, 2024

Independent journalist Tina-Desiree Berg was shoved multiple times and her phone briefly stolen while documenting clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters in Los Angeles, California, on June 23, 2024. At least nine journalists were assaulted while covering the violence that day.

The conflict began after the Southern California chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement called for demonstrators to meet at noon outside the Adas Torah synagogue in the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood in west LA to protest the alleged sale of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Multiple journalists told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that scuffles, brawls and exchanges of pepper spray broke out in the streets nearby between the protesters and counterprotesters.

Individuals from both sides — including a rabbi and security volunteers from the Jewish community — attempted to intervene and prevent the violence from escalating. CNN reported that Los Angeles Police Department officers established a perimeter around the synagogue.

Berg told the Tracker she was targeted with aggressions multiple times throughout the day. “The one thing that really disturbed me the most about that day was the rage. You just could feel the insane amount of rage from these individuals, like nothing I’ve seen,” she said.

Investigative journalist Kate Burns, who was covering the protest for Left Coast Right Watch, captured footage shortly after 2 p.m. of multiple men watching Berg film the protests. At 0:11 in the clip, one man appears to lightly push a second toward Berg. The second man then crashes into her with his shoulder and raised arms, toppling her several feet over and sending her phone flying.

When Burns confronts the man about what happened, he responds simply with, “I got pushed.” Later in the clip, the same man appears to attempt to block multiple journalists from filming.

After police cleared the area surrounding the synagogue, the pro-Palestinian demonstrators began to move back and the pro-Israeli protesters followed and chased them through the neighborhood, according to reports to the Tracker.

Berg said that a group of individuals she identified as pro-Israeli demonstrators surrounded her, shouting at her to leave and threatening, “We’ll get you later.”

At 2:04 in footage captured by Berg, she can be heard asking a woman wearing an Israeli flag around her shoulders, “Why is being a journalist being a loser?” A man standing between them shouts over the woman’s response: “Because you lie! We don’t need you here!”

The man then repeatedly attempts to block Berg’s camera until photojournalist Nick Stern intervenes, as more and more people begin to surround them. “A rabbi got in between them and me and had to calm them down,” Berg said.

Berg told the Tracker that after protesters had moved into another part of the surrounding neighborhood, she was standing at the top of a small set of stairs to film as they marched around the corner. “I walked up there and was filming this shot when this guy came up around me and pushed me off the top of the staircase,” Berg said.

Stern, who was standing next to her, filmed the incident but seconds later the same man grabbed the camera from his hands and threw it on the ground, damaging it.

Berg added that shortly after that encounter she was pepper-sprayed by an individual who ran up and then quickly away, but said she wasn’t certain whether she had been deliberately targeted.

The protests eventually looped back to Adas Torah, which is when independent videographer Sean Beckner-Carmitchel said a switch flipped and violence escalated, particularly with the targeting of journalists. Berg told the Tracker she saw Beckner-Carmitchel being attacked and so ran over to intervene.

Shortly after, Berg was targeted again: An individual she described as “a kid” ripped the phone from her hands and ran down the street. “I start chasing him as fast as I could and somehow caught up to him,” she said. “I said, ‘Give me my phone. That is theft.’ And he looked at me and just chucked it as far and as hard as he could and it went all the way across the street.”

Beginning at 1:20 in footage captured by KCAL-TV, Berg is visible running toward the right side of the street; when the camera zooms in, she can be seen grabbing what looks to be a cellphone from the hands of an individual who appears to be wearing a skullcap. Berg said the individual picked up her phone and returned it when she said she would press charges if he didn’t. She said that aside from scratches on the case, it was undamaged.

Around that same time, another demonstrator grabbed the phone from Burns’ hands and ran off, dropping it on the sidewalk when he noticed police nearby, the reporter told the Tracker.

The LAPD said in a news release that officers were investigating two reports of battery at the protest and that one individual had been arrested for having a spiked post. A spokesperson for the department told the Tracker via email June 27 that they have no further information.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include comment and additional details about the incident from Tina-Desiree Berg.

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