Reporter on assignment for New York Times targeted by law enforcement with tear gas, foam projectiles at Dallas protest

May 30, 2020

Freelance reporter Marina Trahan Martinez was targeted with foam projectiles and tear gas fired by police while covering protests in downtown Dallas, Texas, on May 30, 2020.

The protests were sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds during an arrest on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Trahan Martinez told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker she was reporting on assignment for The New York Times wearing a black shirt emblazoned on the front and back with the word “PRESS” in white uppercase letters.

She was standing on a street corner at around 8 p.m. in downtown Dallas, filming demonstrators who were kneeling, when a group of two to three dozen police officers in riot gear approached.

When someone in the crowd lobbed a water bottle in the direction of the advancing officers, one of the officers issued a warning on his bullhorn to protesters: “Leave the area or you will be arrested.” Seconds later, the police sent canisters of tear gas into the crowd, causing protesters to scatter.

Trahan Martinez was filming the scene on her phone from a corner opposite the action, when the officers repeated their call to leave, this time in her direction. “I shouted, ‘I’m with the press. I’m media. I’m just working. I’m here doing my job,’” she recounted. When they responded with another command to clear the area, Trahan Martinez reiterated that she was a member of the press, in case they had not heard her.

“They screamed back, ‘It doesn’t matter,’” she said. Then they fired a canister of tear gas that landed a few feet behind her to her left.

“They started shooting at me,” she said, recounting that dark blue foam less-lethal projectiles fell at her feet. None of them hit her. Trahan Martinez walked away and took shelter in the patio of a closed restaurant until she was able to reach safety.

Trahan Martinez, who has worked as a reporter in Dallas for 20 years and has plenty of sources inside the Dallas Police Department, described the experience as a jarring one. “This particular unit did not care who I was or what I was doing there,” she said.

Reached by the Tracker, Warren Mitchell, a spokesman for the DPD, wrote in an email that it was “challenging” to provide comment about the incident without hearing the details from Trahan Martinez. Mitchell invited the reporter to make a complaint with the department.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.

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

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