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KDKA-TV photojournalist attacked by protesters in Pittsburgh, camera smashed

May 30, 2020

Ian Smith, a photojournalist for CBS News affiliate KDKA-TV, was attacked by protesters while covering unrest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 30, 2020.

Protests in Pittsburgh occurred as demonstrations that started in Minnesota on May 26 spread across the country. The protests were sparked by video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest. Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Smith, who has worked for KDKA-TV for 15 years, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was following groups of protesters near the PPG Paints Arena, a hockey arena, after an organized, peaceful demonstration ended.

He said he was near a police car that had been set on fire when multiple protesters yelled at him that he wasn’t allowed to film. As he started to move away to try to film from a different spot, he said he felt multiple people pull on his camera. After he lost his balance and fell to the ground, a group of people — he estimated between four and six — began punching and kicking him, while others were nearby. He said he heard them chant, “Kill him, kill him.”

Smith said his attackers took his camera and “smashed it into 1,000 pieces.”

Another group of protesters intervened, forming a wall around Smith to protect him, then helping him to outside the nearby arena where there was a medic, he said. Those demonstrators told him the attackers were not a part of their group. Smith said he found out later he was helped to a safer area by the CEO of the Pittsburgh Penguins, confirmed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Smith was taken by ambulance to a hospital, evaluated and later released. He said he was struck several times in the head and sustained bruises and scrapes on his face, arms and legs.

KDKA-TV reporter Paul Martino, who was covering the protests with Smith, wrote in a Facebook post that demonstrators threatened him as he tried to approach Smith during the attack. He was hospitalized after the incident with severe chest pains.

A spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Police Department said police were aware of the incident, and said the department does not discuss ongoing investigations.

Smith said he was grateful to the people who had stepped in to protect him.

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.

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

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