U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

National Guard uses pepper spray against CNN reporter covering DC protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 3, 2020

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
June 3, 2020

CNN journalists Alexander Marquardt and Josh Replogle were pepper sprayed by National Guard troops on June 3, 2020, while covering early-morning protests in Washington, D.C., near Lafayette Square.

Marquardt and Replogle were covering one of the many protests that erupted in Washington and other U.S cities following the May 25 death of George Floyd while he was in custody of Minneapolis police.

Marquardt, senior national security correspondent for CNN, tweeted on June 3 that a group of individuals attempted just after 12:30 a.m. to push down a fence erected around Lafayette Square. National Guard troops at the scene “responded with pepper spray and rounds,” Marquardt tweeted, without explaining what types of rounds the troops used.

“An otherwise peaceful day that ends with unrest,” Marquardt tweeted. “I really don’t know how that helped anything.”

Replogle was operating a camera for CNN’s reporting from the scene. Marquardt said in a tweet thread that troops fired pepper spray at his team despite the fact that the journalists weren’t standing near protesters.

He also said that because he was holding a microphone, and Replogle was holding a large camera, it should have been clear that they were press, covering the protest.

“3 hours later my arm was still burning,” Marquardt tweeted. “Others got it far worse.”

Mark Irons, a correspondent for the Catholic-themed Eternal Word Television Network, tweeted that National Guard troops fired rubber bullets at the crowd gathered at Lafayette Square around the time that Marquardt and Replogle were hit with pepper spray.

Irons also posted a video depicting troops firing pepper spray at protesters who lowered themselves to their knees and raised their hands.

Marquardt and Replogle didn’t respond to requests by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker for comment and CNN didn’t comment on the incident further. The District of Columbia National Guard also didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Two days earlier, on June 1, President Trump had used St. John’s Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square as the backdrop for a controversial photo op. National Guard troops used tear gas and pepper balls to clear protesters from the area before Trump posed for cameras while holding up a Bible. Tall fences were erected in the park after protesters were expelled, but the protesters later returned to the park area.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.

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