Independent journalist Tina-Desiree Berg was repeatedly shoved and struck in the head by a police officer while documenting reproductive rights protests in Los Angeles, California, on June 24, 2022.
Protests broke out across the country following the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial ruling overturning Roe v. Wade that morning, which established that the right to abortion is guaranteed under the right to privacy.
The first protests in LA began outside a federal courthouse around noon, the Los Angeles Times reported, and continued into the night. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented the assaults of at least eight journalists in the city that night.
Berg told the Tracker she was documenting the arrest of an abortion rights protester when an officer approached her without her noticing. In footage captured by independent videographer Sean Beckner-Carmitchel, Berg can be seen walking toward a group of officers arresting at least one individual while multiple individuals film from approximately six feet back.
An officer can be heard shouting, “Back up!” before appearing to lunge to the side, grabbing Berg as she attempts to join the others documenting the arrest. The officer then appears to shove Berg back.
Footage captured by Beverly Hills Courier reporter Sam Braslow shows the next moments, in which the officer appears to strike Berg in the head as a second officer approaches. That officer then pushes her, ultimately shoving Berg to the ground.
Berg told the Tracker the second officer said she needed to learn her lesson, telling her, “We’re trying to protect you.”
“After that, I said to him, ‘But I’m press, here are my actual credentials.’ And I flipped them around so he saw the credential credential, not just my company one,” Berg said. “I said, ‘You’re not supposed to be doing this, we’re supposed to be allowed to be a safe space away from an arrest and film it.’ And he just said, ‘I don’t care.’”
Berg said she didn’t seek medical treatment after the incident, but felt sore the next few days.
In October 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 98, which was written in order to ensure the rights of journalists while covering protests or other civic actions, according to NPR. The law states that “law enforcement shall not intentionally assault, interfere with, or obstruct journalists” and explicitly exempts members of the press from dispersal orders.
“The last couple of months have been fine, believe it or not. No issues. So, I thought [the Senate bill] was a game changer. Apparently not. A little bit of stress and everything reverts back,” Berg said. “It’s not about me: it’s about the First Amendment, it’s about the importance of preserving press freedom.”
LAPD did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement to the Times, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the department will investigate all complaints, including those that allege officers violated journalists’ rights under the new law.
Find press freedom violations documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker at reproductive rights demonstrations across the U.S. here.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include comment from Tina-Desiree Berg.