Lexis-Olivier Ray, a multimedia journalist for local outlet L.A. Taco, says he was repeatedly pushed by Los Angeles Police Department officers while documenting protests in Los Angeles, California, on Sept. 23, 2020.
The Los Angeles Times reported that hundreds had taken to the streets of downtown L.A. that day following the grand jury decision in the case of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who’d been fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky, home by police in March. Protesters were also demanding the removal of Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, whom they claimed hadn’t done enough to hold the police department accountable in cases of excessive use of force and officer-involved shootings.
The protest was just one in a surge of demonstrations against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement that have been held since May. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.
Ray told the Tracker he was following marchers as they made their way through downtown toward LAPD headquarters, near the intersection of South Main and West First streets.
“I arrived kind of late and was trying to catch up with people as they headed toward the police station and City Hall, which is nearby,” he said. “To get where the group of people was, I had to cross police lines.”
Ray said that he identified himself as press, but when he then attempted to cross the line, a few officers gave him a “hard time.” He said he then took a few steps back and told the officers he would stay where he was.
“They weren’t happy about that,” Ray said. “They told me to back up and eventually started pushing me down the street pretty aggressively.”
Ray said that he then walked approximately 30 to 40 feet farther down the police line and asked different officers if he could be allowed to cross the line in order to document the protest, again identifying himself as a member of the press. According to Ray, the officers said, “Oh yeah, sure,” and he was able to reach the protest without further incident.
“I had my press pass and I had a system for dealing with the police,” Ray said. “I stayed on the sidewalk, in a public area. I was careful about identifying myself and making sure that they knew I was a journalist and I tried to keep my distance from the officers.”
The LAPD did not respond to an emailed request for comment.