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Journalists struck by projectiles while covering Minneapolis protest

May 26, 2020

Two journalists were hit with projectiles on May 26, 2020, while covering a protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, over the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

Floyd was pronounced dead at a hospital the day before, after an officer pinned down his neck with his knee for several minutes, ignoring Floyd's repeated exclamations that he could not breathe. A 17-year-old bystander caught this encounter on video and shared it on Facebook, sparking widespread outrage.

On May 26, thousands of protestors gathered outside the convenience store where Floyd had been detained and marched almost three miles to the Minneapolis Police Department's Third Precinct. There, some in the crowd turned violent, lobbing rocks and water bottles at police. Others attacked parked police cruisers and the precinct itself, breaking a glass door, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Police clad in riot gear answered by setting off tear gas canisters, detonating flash bangs, and firing rubber or foam bullets into the crowd.

One of these projectiles — tipped with blue foam — hit the thigh of Andy Mannix, the federal courts reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Mannix, who had walked with the protestors to the precinct, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that he was leaning against a tree a block away from the precinct attempting to post a video to Twitter when he was hit. Mannix was wearing a press pass, but it was not visible under his raincoat. He said that the police seemed to be firing these projectiles "indiscriminately" and that he did not feel as if he was targeted.

The next day Mannix posted a photo to Twitter of an enormous, colorful bruise that had spread across the inner part of his upper left thigh.

The tear gas police fired was so thick that "you couldn't see your hands in front of your face for a couple square blocks," Mannix told CPJ.

Most protestors in the crowd were wearing face masks to prevent the spread and transmission of coronavirus. "If you can imagine like 2,000 people in a pretty condensed crowd, and then all of them coughing because they're just getting annihilated by this tear gas, you probably couldn't have a worse situation in terms of the pandemic," Mannix told CPJ.

The media collective Unicorn Riot posted on Twitter that a projectile hit its reporter Niko Georgiades in his left tricep, breaking the skin.

In an email, Georgiades told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was standing inside a bus shelter filming protesters facing off with police when he was hit.

"Many were throwing rocks at the precinct and hiding behind the carts and shelter. One person threw and ducked, and instantly a marker round was shot and shrapnel from the broken glass hit him in the eye. I moved in to see what happened and was shot instantly in the arm," he wrote.

He added that he did not think he had been specifically targeted "because of the sheer amount of people throwing things from where I was."

Six days after he was hit, he said that his arm "is still massively bruised and painful with the circle cut pretty deep in certain parts."

Another unidentified journalist carrying a camera was struck multiple times in the throat by an officer carrying a baton despite being identified to officers as a reporter. That incident was captured in a video livestreamed to YouTube by Unicorn Riot.

That encounter occurred on a side street running alongside the police parking lot. As police officers wielding non-lethal firearms approach, someone on the tape can be heard repeating, "We have our hands up and we have press badges."

Shortly afterwards, an officer with a baton strikes the journalist in the throat several times, seemingly unprovoked. This attack prompts someone else from behind the camera to exclaim, "Woah woah woah, no. You do not need to do that. You do not beat the press. He's press, he's press. We're press, too. I'm moving, I'm moving, I'm moving." The video then cuts out.

Georgiades said he tracked down this man the next day and that he did not want his name revealed.

A request for comment sent to Minneapolis Police Department Public Information Officer John Elder was not answered as of press time.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting damage of equipment and multiple journalists arrested or struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas while covering related protests across the country. Find all of these cases here.

This incident has been updated to reflect comment from Niko Georgiades.

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

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