U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

MSNBC journalist hit with incendiary device while reporting live in Seattle

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 1, 2020
Location
Seattle, Washington

Assault

Assailant
Unknown
Was the journalist targeted?
Unknown
June 1, 2020

Journalist Jo Ling Kent was hit on the arm with an exploding incendiary device while reporting live from protests in Seattle, Washington, on June 1, 2020. Kent was uninjured, according to social media posts.

Kent, a correspondent for the TV networks NBC and MSNBC, was covering protests against racial injustice and police brutality that moved through the city of Seattle on the evening of June 1, according to the journalist’s posts on Twitter.

The protest was among 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.

Starting at around 6 p.m., Kent tweeted photos and videos of large crowds moving towards Seattle’s east precinct and through the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

At 7:49 p.m., she tweeted that protesters were “proceeding peacefully” through the streets. But less than an hour later, at 8:27 p.m., Kent wrote that “Tensions are rising near the east precinct in Seattle.” Her tweet accompanied a photo of a police officer holding a baton and facing a protester.

Shortly after, at 9:19 p.m., Kent was reporting live on MSNBC from a sports field in Capitol Hill. In a video of the broadcast posted to Twitter by MSNBC, fireworks are seen going off in the background while Kent reports that police officers are “now advancing on protesters.” Seconds later, an incendiary device explodes and hits Kent on her left arm. She is then hustled away by the network’s security team to the back of the field, where she continues to report until the anchor cautions her to leave the area and a crowd of people start running and yelling. Kent and her team then run off and the video ends.

Kent, who did respond to messages via Twitter and emails seeking comment, later tweeted that “Thankfully, our whole team is ok and safe. I’m totally fine - my jacket sleeve got singed and that’s it.”

As Kent was leaving the scene after being hit she reported on air that “there is severe tear gas and fireworks being deployed by Seattle police.” In its caption with the post of the recording to Twitter, MSNBC wrote that Kent was “hit with fireworks during live broadcast as protests in Seattle, Washington, quickly escalate.”

Dozens of commenters on both MSNBC and Kent’s posts wrote they thought the device, which was seen emitting smoke after exploding and hitting Kent, resembled a tear gas canister or a flash-bang grenade, rather than a firework.

The Seattle Police Department did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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