Journalists threatened with firearms by individuals during a Washington protest

October 31, 2020

Two journalists were threatened with firearms by individuals while covering a protest in Vancouver, Washington, during the early morning hours of Oct. 31, 2020.

Independent journalist Alissa Azar was involved in two separate incidents, the first involving shots being fired. Later, she and a journalist with Full Revolution Media had a gun pointed at them.

They were covering one of the many demonstrations that broke out in response to police violence and in support of Black Lives Matter following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

The demonstration, which began on Oct. 30 and stretched past midnight, was also held to protest the local shooting of Kevin Peterson Jr., a Black man killed by Clark County deputies the day before.

The protest started in Hazel Dell, a suburb about three miles northwest of Vancouver where Peterson was shot, according to The Columbian newspaper. Hundreds of demonstrators and counterprotesters marched from the Fred Meyer store in Hazel Dell where Peterson was shot to downtown Vancouver.

A statement from Vancouver police said a dispersal order was given around 12:15 a.m. on the 31st, claiming the group "became more aggressive when it congregated near the Clark County Jail." Reports of “shots being fired in the air by one of the protestors” came in around 12:25 a.m., it said, though added that no injuries were reported.

At 12:26 a.m., Azar tweeted, “Shots fired.” She wrote in a follow-up tweet that the shots “happened in eyesight of the police but nothing was done."

In a video accompanying that tweet, a vehicle can be seen in the distance, backing away from where Azar and others are standing. Then someone yells, “He’s got a gun!” and two bangs can be heard.

About a half hour later, a woman pulled a gun on Azar and a group of people. At 1:05 a.m., she posted a photograph of the woman, writing, "She just waved a gun around at at least 20 of us."

Azar told the Tracker that the woman was with members of the local chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors, which Azar called a “known local right-wing group."

Azar was wearing visible press markings on her clothes and helmet, she said, as well as a National Press Photographers Association credential. While she wasn’t physically injured, it was a visible threat, she said.

Azar also posted a photograph of the woman pointing the gun at John, the Full Revolution Media reporter, writing, "The police were right behind us when it happened. Here she's pointing it at @Johnthelefty."

John, who asked that his last name not be used out of safety concerns, told the Tracker that there were several hostile moments between demonstrators and right-wing counter-protesters.

“During tense group dynamics, the girl with the two guys involved in fights pulled a gun and pointed it at every person that she walked by,” he said. “Cops did not respond.”

John said he didn’t have press markings that night, but was there as a journalist. He didn’t sustain any injuries.

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

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