A projectile fired by law enforcement struck freelance journalist Sam Slovick in the ankle as he covered a July 25, 2020, protest in Los Angeles, the journalist told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
The city had witnessed a series of racial justice protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The local TV channel CBSLA reported on July 25 that several hundred protesters had gathered in downtown Los Angeles.
Slovick, a freelance journalist and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Los Angeles Magazine, LA Weekly and elsewhere, was livestreaming the protest march that day from his phone as the crowd worked its way through downtown Los Angeles. Slovick’s stream showed that at about 7 p.m., protesters clashed with police outside of a federal courthouse at 350 West First Street, with some protesters throwing objects at officers who responded by firing crowd control munitions. Marchers retreated from the courthouse and calm appeared to return.
Slovick then followed the marchers through downtown Los Angeles while livestreaming from his phone, which was mounted on a stabilization rig, a device used by professionals and others to hold a camera steady while recording.
At 7:24 p.m., according to Slovick’s livestream, the journalist arrived at a federal building at 300 North Los Angeles Street, about half a mile away from the courthouse, where the protestors had reassembled. Slovick’s livestream shows the crowd listening to a protester delivering a speech about racial justice. Soon after, Slovick’s stream shows several protesters smashing some of the building’s windows with hammers.
When police arrived, Slovick’s livestream shows the protestors moving away from the federal building. Some remained in the street, others crossed it and remained on the opposite side of the street as protestors chanted at the officers. As police and protestors faced each other, Slovick stood at the front of the crowd, next to a protester with a megaphone who was chanting “fuck 12,” a phrase meaning “fuck police” that is heard at many anti-police brutality protests. At 7:35 p.m., the livestream shows the protester shouting: “And we’re going to shut this bitch down and burn this motherfucker to the ground…”
As the protester speaks, a single shot can be heard before Slovik’s camera shakes and he begins limping away. “I just got fucking shot,” Slovick says on the livestream. Slovick crossed the street and sat on steps at the Los Angeles Mall to take stock of his injury. In the livestream, he is heard complaining about severe pain and attributing the shot to the Los Angeles Police Department.
“There was nothing threatening going on, there was no reason for them to be shooting anybody,” Slovick told the Tracker.
Slovick said he was not wearing any press identification, but said he was clearly filming the incident with his phone mounted on a stabilization rig. Slovick said he believes the Los Angeles Police Department officers on protest duty would have recognized him because he has been recording such events for years. Despite that, Slovick said he did not believe they were targeting him with the projectile.
A photo he posted four days after the incident shows a bruised and swollen ankle where Slovick was hit. In an interview with the Tracker, Slovick said he was not sure what kind of munition struck him. According to the LAPD, the police force utilizes both beanbags fired from shotguns as well as foam baton rounds for crowd control.
In the October interview with the Tracker, more than two months after he was hit, Slovik said his ankle was still swollen, bruised, and painful. He said he has joined a Lawyers Guild federal class action lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department over law enforcement’s use of force during protests this year.
Contacted by the Tracker, the LAPD said they could not comment on pending investigations and referred the Tracker to public statements on the police department’s website. On June 10, days after the Lawyers Guild lawsuit was originally filed, LAPD said in a statement that the department had assigned 40 investigators to look into allegations of misconduct, violations and excessive force during unrest. The LAPD also provided contact information to the general public to report complaints related to protest response.
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. Find these incidents here.