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June: While reporting from protests across the nation, journalists tear-gassed, threatened

June 1, 2020

George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, ignited a sweeping assembly of protesters across the United States — and the globe — a staggering, monthslong outcry for police reform and racial justice. In many moments peaceful, in many others bracingly violent, journalists of all stripes took to documenting these demonstrations. At times, to do the job meant to expose oneself to the effects of riot-control agents, to face harassment from individuals or law enforcement officials, to fear for your safety or have your reporting interrupted. Below is a geographically organized roundup of such examples from around the U.S. on June 1, 2020.

A full accounting of incidents in which members of the press were assaulted, arrested or had their equipment damaged while covering these protests can be found here. To learn more about how the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents and categorizes violations of press freedom, visit pressfreedomtracker.us.

June 1, 2020

In Columbus, Ohio

  • WOSU reporter Paige Southwick Pfleger and All Things Considered host Clare Roth were covering the protests in the downtown area when they saw reports on social media of an attack on three journalists from the Lantern, the Ohio State University student newspaper, Pfleger told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. By the time the WOSU reporters arrived at the intersection of North High Street and Lane Avenue at around 10:45 p.m., Pfleger said most of the crowd had dispersed. Pfleger said she saw one individual on the ground being arrested and a group of more than a dozen police officers. As the two journalists reached the intersection, Pfleger said several police officers approached them and told them to leave. Pfleger, who was holding her WOSU media badge in her hand to show the officers, replied that they had a right to be there as members of the media. According to Pfleger, the officer told them, “You have to go one block down. If I have to tell you again I’m going to hose you.” A different officer, who was about a foot away from the journalists, then raised a can of pepper spray at their eye level and told them to leave immediately, Pfleger said. As the women walked away from the scene, Pfleger said, the officer followed them for half a block and continued to threaten them with the pepper spray. In a video Pfleger posted to Twitter, an officer can be seen following them with the pepper spray canister raised in his hand. Pfleger is heard saying, “I’m sorry, what was that threat? We’re members of the media, you have no right, and we’re walking away.” The officer then turned around and left. Roth also tweeted about the incident. “Being threatened with a tear gas canister is a new one.” WOSU published an account of the incident the next day but did not seek an official response from the Columbus Division of Police, according to Pfleger. The Columbus Division of Police did not respond to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s request for comment.

In Washington, D.C.

  • In what the Washington Post referred to as “a massive show of force,” federal agents used tear gas and rubber bullets early in the evening to clear the way for President Donald Trump to visit a church for a photo op. Multiple journalists reported being assaulted while covering the day’s ongoing protests as well as affected by the chemical irritants.
  • Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, Al Arabiya TV’s D.C. bureau chief, tweeted around 9:15 p.m.: “Last scene from the streets of #WashingtonDCProtest outside the #WHITEHOUSE after 10 hours of live coverage, got tear gassed twice, exhausted but left the city in one piece #ICantBreathe #GeorgeFloyd #StJohnsChurch #DCProtests.”

In Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Cincinnati police arrested a man after he allegedly pointed a firearm from a car at a media crew and its security guard who’d been covering protests in the city, Lieutenant Steve Saunders, a Cincinnati Police Department spokesperson, told the Tracker. Saunders said that a minor was arrested as well. Local news reports citing the police said four people in the vehicle were detained. According to court documents, Solomon Zellars, 18, was the arrestee and released on cash bond of $100,000. As of Sept. 11, 2020, he faces charges of carrying concealed weapons and improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle. Saunders told the Tracker that police confiscated an AR-15-style rifle with a hundred-round magazine, and the police department’s Twitter account shared a photo of the firearm. Saunders told the Tracker the news crew was unaware a weapon had been pointed at them. But the Cincinnati Enquirer, citing Saunders, reported that the TV crew had informed the police about the incident. The identity of the TV crew is not clear.

June 2, 2020

In Seattle, Washington

  • The ACLU announced on June 9 that it had filed an emergency lawsuit against the city on behalf of Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County and several individuals, arguing that “the use of chemical agents and projectiles for crowd control violate the First and Fourth Amendments.” Nathalie Graham, a staff writer at the Stranger, a biweekly alternative newspaper in Seattle, was among the plaintiffs. In her declaration, she relayed the following about the events of June 2: “I was working at The Stranger’s office at around 11:30 p.m. The office is on the third floor of a building that has a clear view of the intersection at 11th and Pine in Capitol Hill, which has become a daily protest site. That night, I was recording the demonstration from the fire escape. The vast majority of protesters below had been peaceful, although a few individuals had thrown water bottles, rocks, and at one point a traffic cone. Overall, the demonstration did not appear to be dangerous or out-of-control. The police made an announcement that I could not hear over a loudspeaker, and almost immediately afterwards removed their barricade so that officers on bikes could come streaming through into the crowd of protesters. They also started firing tear gas. I was seriously alarmed by the sudden escalation, and quickly retreated back inside my office, where I shut the windows. The ground below was so immersed in gas that I couldn’t see the road. Some of it began to seep in to my office, despite the closed windows, and I began to cough…. Later, while I continued to record events below from the window, the police directed a large spotlight at me. I don’t know whether they knew my building was the Stranger’s offices; this is common knowledge in the neighborhood, but our name is not displayed prominently on the street. Whether or not they knew that I was a journalist, I don’t understand why they fixed their light on me, and it made me nervous. To be honest, I was frightened—it gave me the impression that I was doing something wrong, even though I knew that I wasn’t. Despite my intimidation, I continued to record. Witnessing the aggressive, indiscriminate deployment of chemical agents and flash bang grenades by police at these protests has made me reconsider how I approach my assignments. There is a new element of trepidation, anxiety, and fear to my experience of being a journalist. I am determined to assert my rights and do my job, so I will continue reporting—but I would not be surprised if other journalists felt that their ability report from the ground was significantly impaired by these law enforcement tactics. They are deeply disturbing.”
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In Charlotte, North Carolina

  • When asked about the “direct hit of some tear gas” he took on the night of June 2 while covering protests, Ron Lee, a reporter and videographer for WBTV, a CBS affiliate station based in Charlotte, told the podcast 1on1 with Jon Evans, from sister station WECT, in nearby Wilmington: “It was just one of multiple hits we took while covering uptown protests…. They started off with one of their senior officers there, and I know him very well. He had what’s basically a pepper ball gun. If you’ve ever played paintball with your kid, that’s basically what they use but it’s filled with a cayenne pepper sauce. And that’s specifically to try to deter the instigators, the people who are the leaders of the demonstrations at that point. It’s kind of like a surgical strike. When that failed to disperse the crowd, they started to use items like these—this is an actual flash-bang grenade that I collected at the riot. For folks who can’t see it, it’s a cylindrical object made of metal. Probably about 2 inches high, about 3 inches deep. What this does, if you can imagine, it’s like an extremely loud firework…. These things will go off very close to crowds, which will do a very good job of dispersal. I’ve been in the business for 33 years, talked to riot police in multiple markets. The last thing they want to do is use gas, which comes in a canister like this. I also collected this at the riot scene. Gas is an uncontrollable beast. What I mean by that is that once deployed, you have no idea where the gas goes. You have no control over it. In a metropolitan area like Charlotte, the wind switches direction, gets in between those buildings, the gas could very easily come back on police officers, which many times it did. It also came back on the media. We took several hits, and I can tell you from first-hand experience, it is a very good deterrent to get you out of a particular situation…. We knew what it was immediately. There’s no question what it is. The problem is that when it’s deployed, it affects your eyesight first. It’s like this burning sensation, and then the optics around your eye start to burn uncontrollably, and then you inhale the gas. Well, your lungs immediately want to purge the gas from your system, so you start coughing. But when you cough, you’ve got to bring in a deeper breath, so that makes it much worse…. There was a crew next to me from a competing station, and they took it very hard. Both the photographer as well as the reporter were on all fours, almost vomiting, it was so bad. They actually had to have a person who referred to themselves as a ‘riot medic,’ who was actually part of the demonstration, come up and administer aid, give them some water, try to wipe the cayenne pepper sauce out of their eyes.”

June 3, 2020

In Oakland, California

  • Janelle Wang, a weeknight news anchor for NBC Bay Area, tweeted aerial footage of a demonstration a little before midnight, noting: “Having some fun at tonight's Oakland Protest. People doing the electric slide. Protesters out past curfew and a few pointing lasers at our news chopper, which is dangerous & a federal crime, but overall, a peaceful night.” According to coverage of the protest on NBC Bay Area’s website, the first laser was pointed at the helicopter just before 9 p.m., and in footage Wang posted on Twitter, at least four streaks of green light can be seen flashing up to the sky.

In New York, New York

  • A New York police officer came up behind amNewYork reporter Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech, who’d been documenting protests against police violence in downtown Brooklyn, tapped her camera with his baton and asked why she hadn’t gone home yet, the journalist told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. Mayor Bill de Blasio had imposed an 8 p.m. curfew the day before to try and control escalating unrest in the city. Essential workers — who, in New York, include members of the media — were exempt. O’Connell-Domenech had been posting updates on her Twitter feed as she followed a crowd of protesters marching throughout Brooklyn. O’Connell-Domenech said that at around 10 p.m. she had fallen slightly behind the demonstrators. While trying to catch up, she said, she passed a line of three or four police officers. She told the Tracker that one of them approached her from behind and used his baton to tap the camera visibly sticking out of her messenger bag. The officer then asked why she had not yet gone home. O’Connell-Domenech said she directed the officer’s attention to the press pass hanging from her neck and he walked away. “He should have been able to see it dangling in front of my chest,” she said, “but it was dark out and I had a jacket on, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.” The New York City Police Department had not returned the Tracker’s request for comment as of press time. “I have never had an officer physically use his presence, his body size, to try to get me to back up from a situation,” O’Connell-Domenech said. “This was really my first experience with dealing with police officers in a hostile situation.”

June 4, 2020

In New York, New York

A quartet of journalists, covering protests across New York City that had extended past the city’s 8 p.m. curfew, reported being told to go home by NYPD officers despite being exempt from the curfew and displaying proper identification.

  • Ben Verde, a reporter for Brooklyn Paper, estimated on Twitter that at least 8,000 people had gathered at a vigil for George Floyd at McCarren Park in Brooklyn. After the vigil, the participants began to peacefully march to the south. According to Verde’s Twitter thread from that night, riot police showed up around 9 p.m., barricading the crowd in the intersection of Wythe Avenue and Penn Street. About 20 minutes later, Verde tweeted: “And shit just changed. Cops charge the crowd, beating, arresting.” Shortly before 9:40, he reported: “White shirt office[r] tells me ‘we gave you a chance to leave.’ I inform him curfew doesn’t apply to me, he charges me and says ‘you got a problem? I’ll take your fucking press pass.’” Verde told the Tracker in an email that he “ran in the other direction while [the officer] ran at me.” After he left the scene, he continued to report that night. Verde told the Tracker that someone filed a complaint about the interaction, but he declined to pursue it.
  • Julianne Cuba, a reporter with Streetsblog NYC, told the Tracker in an email that she started reporting that night after hearing “many cop cars racing by and so went to go see what was happening.” She said that she biked past the 88th Precinct in Brooklyn, where federal agents, including those from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were idling despite no protesters being nearby. Cuba said she was biking past the corner of Wallabout Street and Lee Avenue when an officer told her to go home. She told the Tracker that her NYPD-issued press badge was visible, and she held it up in response to the officer’s statement. Cuba reflected in her email that she thinks the officer targeted her either because she is a young woman or because of her press pass, or both. She doesn’t believe she could have been mistaken for a protester because she “wouldn’t have been a protester by [herself].” She explained how she later found the protesters and followed them to downtown Brooklyn. In a confrontation among police and protesters in which police were pushing everyone off a sidewalk, Cuba argued that she, as a credentialed reporter, had a right to be there. When the officers did not yield, she said she “walked away to not risk anything worse.”
  • Caroline Haskins, a reporter with BuzzFeed News, was following a large crowd of protesters in Manhattan. At 9:30 p.m., she posted a video of the protesters playing music, dancing and chanting “Black Lives Matter.” Forty minutes later, the atmosphere had changed. On Twitter, Haskins wrote: “Police descending on protesters who were completely peaceful. Completely chaos. People screaming. Police grabbed my arms and tried to cuff me but let me go when I showed my press pass,” adding, “There are so many officers here. One shouted ‘if you’re press you’d better have your badge our or else you’re getting collared.’” In a Tweet sent the following day, Haskins said: “Last night, police officers let me go and didn't arrest me when I showed a BuzzFeed press badge. But about 5 minutes later, an officer asked for press creds again. I showed my BuzzFeed badge and he said ‘That’s not an NYPD press pass, you need to leave,’” adding “NYPD DCPI has said that an outlet press badge is sufficient for anyone covering a protest. But NYPD officers are still telling reporters something else on the ground.” Haskins told the Tracker she complied and left shortly thereafter. “I think he was just trying to get us to leave and see if that would work,” she said. “It was unclear if he would have actually done anything or tried to arrest us if we didn’t move in two minutes like we did.” Haskins said she reached out to the NYPD for comment but did not receive a response. She later reflected on Twitter: “Having a BuzzFeed badge was a determining factor in my safety. Organizers and freelancers don't have that safety.”
  • Daniel Moritz-Rabson, a freelance journalist, told the Tracker in a phone interview of an incident of law enforcement in Brooklyn kettling a group of protesters and journalists for about 15 minutes that night. Around 10:30 p.m., he shared a video of the scene, writing, “Police just moved on protesters. A standoff followed. Swarms of cops now staring down protesters. We’re surrounded on both sides.” He subsequently told the Tracker: “And then after 15 minutes, where it seemed like the police were going to start whacking and arbitrarily arresting people, they opened what had been a wall of police and they were ushering people out.” Moritz-Rabson said he stepped through and joined a group of NYPD-credentialed reporters standing off to the side. Immediately after joining them, he said, an officer approached and asked for his press badge, which he did not have. He had previously exchanged emails with NYC Press Secretary Freddi Goldstein, who suggested he carry business cards to have some form of press identification. The officer rejected his offer to show her his business card. As Moritz-Rabson and others left, they were urged along by NYPD officers, who “reminded us that we could go home or be arrested,” according to a tweet by Moritz-Rabson. The NYPD would hold a hearing about amending the rules around press passes in August 2020. The department proposed revoking a journalist’s NYPD-issued press pass if they were either lawfully arrested or failed “to comply with a lawful order of a police officer.” Following a public hearing and broad censure of the proposed rule change, the City of New York announced plans to take the issuance of press credentials out of the NYPD’s jurisdiction.

June 9, 2020

In Ohama, Nebraska

  • Kent Luetzen, a reporter for CBS affiliate KMTV, said he was threatened with arrest and repeatedly told to leave while covering a protest on June 9, 2020. Thousands of protesters gathered in downtown Omaha to honor a 22-year old Black man who was shot and killed by an Omaha business owner more than a week prior, according to KTIV. At the intersection of South 13th Street and Harney Street, Luetzen told the Tracker that National Guardsmen and Omaha police told him that he'd be arrested if he did not leave. "It's really hard to know what you're supposed to do in those moments," he said. "We went as far as we could without having to leave." While he and his colleagues continued reporting, he said they weren't able to see what was going on. Luetzen said he had his press credentials around his neck and a KMTV logo on his hat. When asked for comment about another incident, in which Luetzen was briefly detained on June 1, Lt. Sherie Thomas, a spokesperson for the Omaha Police Department, told the Tracker that Police Chief Todd Schmaderer had ordered “an overall review of the protests.” Thomas later said that the department sent “clear communication” to news outlets “to make sure employees had visible badges showing that they work for the media” and to “wear highly visible vests.”

June 12, 2020

In Miami, Florida

  • A group of journalists, including Miami Herald reporter David Ovalle, were covering protests along I-95 when a Florida Highway Patrol commander approached, yelled that they weren’t allowed to cover the protest and accused them of inciting a riot. Ovalle told the Tracker that members of the media were standing in several groups removed from the protesters and taking pictures. Ovalle said that, since his phone was dying, he was snapping very few pictures and mostly taking notes in his notebook. At one point, he said, “an FHP commander, who was the only one not wearing a helmet and mask or anything” walked up to the protesters and media and motioned for them to clear off the highway. As the journalists trailed behind the dispersing crowd, Ovalle said, the FHP commander came up to them and yelled, “They’re allowed to be here. But you guys can’t fucking be here. You’re inciting them and if you come up here again, we’re going to arrest you for inciting a riot.” Ovalle said he and the other media were surprised and irritated because, as Ovalle put it, the commander “waited for everyone to leave to heap abuse on us,” adding, “It was the weirdest thing because all the frontline guys, they were all cool. I even chatted with a few police officers, some people I recognized. Everyone was like, ‘Be safe, wear a mask.’ I think it was just him. He seemed frustrated and just tired and cranky and decided to unload on us.” Ovalle said the journalists eventually walked away, and were yelled at by some protesters for leaving when the police told them to. NBC6 reporter Jamie Guirola responded to tweet Ovalle had posted about the incident, writing, “@FHPMiami also wrongfully accused of me and my crew of leading protestors on the highway and inciting a riot. A discussion needs to take place with @FHPSWFL about our rights as journalists and roles in that situation.” One of the Herald’s editors later published an editorial about the incident and wrote to the FHP’s public information officer. Ovalle told the Tracker that the officer responded with an apology, reiterated that the media had the right to cover the protests and attributed the commander’s actions to the tense situation that day.

June 14, 2020

In Richmond, Virginia

  • Brandon Jarvis, a freelance reporter, was caught in pepper spray while covering protests in the Virginia capital. Demonstrators had gathered that night at Monroe Park around 9 p.m., assembling to protest the events of the previous evening, in which a police car drove into a crowd of protesters and nearly ran one person over. Demanding that the officers involved be fired, protesters marched to the police station. In an email to the Tracker, Jarvis described the protest as “tense but I don’t recall any damage being done to property. Emotions were high.” At 9:45, Jarvis noted on Twitter, “Someone just threw fireworks near the alley and police officers came running down the alley with what looks like paintball guns. The crowd fell back for a minute but is reforming.” Within a few minutes, Jarvis would tweet that cops had hurried to form a line in front of the station. Jarvis told the Tracker that he couldn’t remember if the Richmond Police Department ordered the crowd to disperse, as it often had during other protests he covered. There are no tweets from that night on the RPD’s Twitter account, which, according to Jarvis, frequently posted announcements of unlawful assembly. Jarvis said he saw officers suiting up and putting on masks, and watched as one officer spoke to each officer in the line. At this point, Jarvis said, he moved farther back to plan a quick and safe exit from the crowd if needed, as he could tell that the scene was escalating. As he was returning to the front of the crowd, he said, people started running, so Jarvis said he decided that the safest route was to walk sideways across the lot, around 20 feet from the police line. It was at this distance that Jarvis was hit with the pepper spray. Jarvis noted on Twitter that evening that field medics helped to wash out his eyes and that “I’m falling back now bec I’m out of water and medics were having to use a lot of theirs.” In a statement posted the following day on Facebook, Richmond Police Chief William C. Smith said, “Organizers were intent on provocation and creating mayhem by throwing rocks and other objects at the officers on duty, who showed great restraint in response to these attacks.” The statement went on to read that “the escalating violence prompted multiple declarations of an unlawful assembly, which was broadcast to the crowd several times with instructions to disperse. After warnings were disregarded, a pepper spray fogger was deployed.”

June 15, 2020

In Richmond, Virginia

  • Andrew Ringle, the executive editor of the Commonwealth Times, the independent student newspaper of Virginia Commonwealth University, was reporting on protests outside police headquarters when an officer rolled a flash-bang grenade that veered away from protesters and exploded next to him, according to video of the incident. In a phone interview with the Tracker, Ringle said that the protesters who’d congregated in front of the precinct that evening initially faced a stationary police line. Ringle said that police eventually began to move toward the protesters, who backed up until they were cornered against a brick wall in a parking lot. Ringle said he stood to the right of the protesters, holding his press badge issued by Capital News Service in front of him in an effort to distance himself from the protesters. A video Ringle posted on Twitter from that night shows the police firing explosives, including flash-bang grenades and tear gas, against the cornered crowd. At 10:15 p.m., according to the time stamp on the video on Ringle’s phone, protesters were yelling “Fuck you” at the police line when an officer threw a flash-bang grenade toward the protesters. In the video, the canister can be seen curving away from the protest line and toward Ringle, exploding near him. Ringle told the Tracker that the officer who threw the canister looked surprised when it veered away from protesters and landed at his feet. According to Ringle, one of the officers yelled at protesters to “please back up, there is tear gas in the air” after the explosion. The crowd was unable to comply because they were already against the wall in the parking lot, according to Ringle. Ringle said that the officers continued to use “chemical agents” against the protesters, who held out umbrellas to shield themselves and Ringle. Ringle said he left the protest scene after nearly 30 minutes, and continued to report for several hours after the incident. He tweeted an update at 10:20, saying that he was “currently shaking” but safe. Two weeks after the protest, the Richmond police chief revealed in a City Council Public Safety Committee meeting that the department lacked consistent and universal training when it came to using non-lethal dispersal methods.

June 21, 2020

In Compton, California

  • At least half a dozen journalists — Josie Huang, of KPCC and the LAist; freelancer Aarón Cantú; Brittny Mejia, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times; Emily Valdez, a reporter the news radio station KNX; and LA Taco reporters Brian Feinzimer and Memo Torres — reported or appeared to be caught in tear gas and other riot-control agents while covering a protest of the death of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, who’d been fatally shot by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies three days earlier. A little before 3 p.m., Huang tweeted that protesters were beginning to march from the auto body shop where Guardado had been shot to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department station in Compton, some 3 miles away. As the crowd approached the station an hour later, it had grown to number in the hundreds. At 5:13 p.m., Mejia tweeted a video of Guardado’s father, Christopher, speaking outside the Compton Courthouse, noting a minute later that scene appeared to be escalating, writing, “Protest for #AndresGuardado, deputies now appear to be shooting non lethal projectiles. Lot of booms and smoke.” She later explained that organizers had told the crowd to disperse because “something was happening around the corner between a small crowd of protesters and deputies.” In a photo posted by Cantú a few minutes earlier, seven officers could be seen in an alley near the courthouse. Two minutes later he tweeted, “They just shot some kind of explosive at close range. People calling for medic.” In a video posted shortly thereafter, he and the crowd of protesters can be seen frantically running away as the officers began to liberally fire what Cantú would later identify as the non-lethal ammunition: rubber bullets, pepper balls and smoke gas. Huang tweeted similar footage, showing 12 visible officers and protesters fleeing a barrage of tear gas and flash-bang fire. A few minutes later, she wrote, “Just got teargassed. So did dozens others worse than me. I stood with protestwrs [sic] holding my press badge.” A little before 5:30 p.m., Mejia also tweeted that her eyes were watering from the crowd-dispersal devices. Around 5:45 p.m., Feinzimer shared photos showing how “@KNX1070 reporter @EmilyValdezKNX and demonstrators are treated by community medics for exposure to pepper balls shot by @LASDHQ.” Feinzimer also told the Tracker in an email that both he and his colleague Memo Torres had been caught near separate flash-bang grenades, noting that he also breathed in some pepper ball gas and got some in his eyes. Torres tweeted a picture later that evening showing his hat splattered with what he thought was residue from either pepper balls or tear gas.

June 23, 2020

In Phoenix, Arizona

  • Bob McClay, a reporter for KTAR News 92.3, was documenting demonstrations in north Phoenix where protesters and police were facing off at the intersection of Cave Creek Road and East Sharon Drive. “I have been told if I keep taking pictures I will be part of unlawful assembly and will be subject to arrest,” McClay wrote on Twitter. McClay was not placed under arrest.

June 29, 2020

In Graham, North Carolina

  • The nation’s racial reckoning renewed outcry in Graham about a Confederate monument outside the county courthouse. Sheriff Terry Johnson’s office released a statement on June 24 saying that he was legally obligated to protect the county’s property where the statue sits, and two days later, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office issued a blanket refusal to grant protest permits, writing, “[N]o permits to protest in the city of Graham, NC to include the Alamance County Courthouse have been granted, nor will be granted for the foreseeable future.” The ACLU of North Carolina called the action explicitly unconstitutional in a letter co-penned with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Emancipate NC on June 26. On the morning of June 29, the mayor of nearby Burlington announced his support for relocating the monument, so that afternoon, News & Observer reporter Tammy Grubb and videographer Julia Wall made their way to the courthouse to see if any protesters had gathered, Wall explained in a phone interview with the Tracker. Wall said that she and Grubb “were just hanging around, sitting and talking, kind of waiting to see if we saw anybody [when] one protester showed up,” advocating for the monument to be taken down. The News & Observer’s coverage of the day’s events included a video of an officer approaching the protester a few minutes after she’d arrived and telling her that she couldn’t protest on the property and that if she stayed, she would be arrested for loitering. The protester moved across the street and stood in front of her car, soon striking up a conversation with the reporters. According to the News & Observer, two officers soon approached the protester in her new spot. One, a sergeant, said that “anyone standing out here” would be arrested and charged with a failure to disperse if the group didn’t leave immediately. The group in question included the lone protester, Grubb, Wall and two bystanders. Wall told the Tracker that she and Grubb reminded him that they were press and that he couldn’t threaten them with arrest for protesting. She also said that another officer came up shortly thereafter and talked to the protester about putting her sign away. The group moved to sit on a brick wall in a square across the street from the courthouse so they weren’t technically standing on the sidewalk anymore. At this point, Wall told the Tracker that “a sheriff's deputy came up who was a lot cooler-headed and was like, ‘You guys are fine. We’re not going to arrest you. It’ll be OK. We just want people to not obstruct the sidewalk.’ Though there wasn’t any foot traffic. But basically, cooler heads prevailed.” In July, the Graham City Council repealed the article in the city’s ordinances about restricting demonstrations.

Information in this roundup was gathered from published social media and news reports as well as interviews where noted. To read similar incidents from other days of national protests also in this category, go here.

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

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