Shelby Rose, a reporter with KATV Channel 7 News, was assaulted during a live broadcast while covering protests in Little Rock, Arkansas, on May 30, 2020.
Protests in Little Rock began as demonstrations erupted across the country, sparked by a video of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest in Minnesota on May 25. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Rose was covering a protest near the Arkansas Capitol, where the crowd was “agitated,” she said. Some protesters had been clear that they were not happy the journalists were there, she said.
Rose was preparing for a live broadcast when a woman began screaming near her and in front of the camera. When the broadcast began, the photographer zoomed in on Rose, while the woman stood to her right, shouting at her and using profanities.
Video shows that as Rose tried to move away, the woman followed her, getting closer. As Rose directed the broadcast back to the anchor, the woman raised her arm and struck Rose over the head with an object.
Rose said she didn’t see the object she was struck with but believes it was a water bottle because water sprayed around her. After she was hit, Rose said she ducked and ran away from the woman. The assault left her with an injury in her neck, for which she subsequently sought medical attention.
A spokesperson for the Little Rock Police Department said law enforcement was aware of the incident, but declined to comment because the investigation is ongoing.
Rose said she and four other members of the KATV team were clearly identified as press. She was wearing a shirt with the KATV News logo on it and carried a microphone also marked with the station’s logo. Before the broadcast in which Rose was hit, a different protester had confronted a member of the team, who was recording video on her phone, and repeatedly hit the phone out of her hand.
Rose previously covered the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota in 2016, where, though she’d had a few tense interactions, she says she never experienced hostility like she did covering the George Floyd protests in Little Rock. “It’s incredible to see the switch of the mentality of the general public toward journalists from then until now,” she said.
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.