Independent multimedia journalist Jordan Pickett was hit and injured by a crowd-control projectile fired by law enforcement officers while he covered protests against police violence in Seattle on June 8, 2020.
The Seattle demonstrations were one of many that have swept across the country in response to the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis on May 25.
On the evening of Sunday, June 7, most protesters were gathered in one area near Capitol Hill along East Pine Street and 10th Avenue, Pickett told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. He had been covering the action in the front, but began to slowly retreat as police officers deployed tear gas to force protesters to disperse.
“At that point, a flash bang grenade went off almost directly on my foot and that was scary enough that I started to push back further,” Pickett remembered. “I was walking with both of my cameras held up to try to appear as not intimidating as possible.”
Pickett said he also had a press badge around his neck and large pieces of white duct tape with the word “PRESS” written in black Sharpie on his hat and backpack.
At 12:23 a.m. on June 8, officers hit Pickett with what he believes was a 40mm baton round in the back of his right thigh, he told the Tracker. In a tweet sent at 3:02 a.m., he wrote the projectile tore through thick jeans from more than 50 feet away, breaking the skin and making him collapse in pain.
According to his estimates, officers were still more than 50 feet away. Picket crawled behind a parked car to regain his composure while more tear gas was released around him. He said he was momentarily blinded and still disoriented when he got up and started walking towards Broadway, where a protester sprayed a baking-soda solution in his eyes.
“Either officers identified me as press and shot anyway, are shooting so quickly or indiscriminately that they can’t identify their targets first or weren’t aiming for me and shot inaccurately,” Pickett wrote in another tweet. “All three seem problematic.”
On Sept. 25, the law firm of Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle and State of Washington on the behalf of “peaceful protesters,” including Pickett, claiming the city enabled police officers’ “unreasonable and disproportionate conduct” and the “widescale use of excessive force,” violating rights protected under the First Amendment.
Seattle Police Department spokesman Randy Huserik declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing pending litigation. He confirmed that SWAT officers were deployed but said they do not use baton rounds.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or having their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country.